Agency Lessons: The Query Games part 1

I'm getting ready to throw myself back into the query trenches and while getting my prep work done, I realized how daunting it can be just to get started. I'm kinda neurotic when it comes to querying, but organization keeps me sane. That said, I thought some of you might be interested in my OCD process. I'll be taking over the Agency Lessons for the next few weeks to give you an inside look at how I query.
It's no surprise to those who know me, but I live in Excel. Everything is easier to organize in a spreadsheet. Queries are no different. My first step is to make a rough list of agents by searching on agentquery, querytracker and publisher's marketplace. I also add any agents who've caught my eye on Twitter or another social media site.

Each agent gets added to the spreadsheet:
Sample Query Page
I use this to track the agent, who they are with, their contact info, submission guidelines, response times, etc. This list has several agents from one agency. If that happens, I go to their website and select the agent that best matches what I write. Unless an agency specifically says it's okay, you should never query more than one agent from an agency.

After I have the general info listed, I start looking for interviews and personal blogs. I'm a big fan of the GLA blog and Mother.Write.Repeat when it comes to getting more specific agent info. I want to know how hands on the agent is when it comes to editing, their preferred communication method and agenting philosophy (that's totally a real thing). This gets added to the spreadsheet under agent comments.

This field helps me to personalize my queries. It also helps me get to know the agents more and decide who I want to query in my first round, second round, etc. I have one more field labeled "Additional Info". This is for the random stuff that comes up, like if an agent has a preferred order of the way they want things pasted into the email. This is also where I notate if the agent is one of the few who wants extra stuff attached instead of pasted.

I can see some of your eyes glazing over. I get it. Some people hate spreadsheets with a passion. Or you might be looking at this and thinking "Sweet Sixteen Candles, that's a lot of work." Yeah, it is. But here's the deal. Finding the right agent is important. If something is important, you put the extra effort in to get it right. No matter how you organize your querying process, make sure you aren't just phoning it in.

I want to mention one last thing. As you are making your agent list and researching each person, you need to be honest with yourself. If you come across an agent that you don't feel would be a good match for you personally, don't query them. I get the draw of having a huge query list, because bigger numbers increase your chances. But you are only wasting everyone's time by querying someone you don't want to work with.

Next week, I'll hijack Agency Lessons again and talk about grouping agents and timing your queries. Doesn't that sound glamorous?