Monday, February 25, 2013

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?

23 comments:

  1. I had a very similar sheet while I was querying. I wouldn't have survived without it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! I'm still working on my WIP, but at least now I've got a better idea of what works for the querying stage. Thanks, Sarah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure other folks use different methods, but I'd lose it without my spreadsheet.

      Delete
  3. I stuck with Querytracker when querying. All I do at work is work in excel. A girl can only take so many spreadsheets lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like Querytracker. The stats they give for each agent is priceless.

      Delete
  4. Good advice. If I decide to query an agent, I'll try it. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Like Katja, I'm still working on my wip. But, I'll keep this post for when I'm ready to query. Lot's of good info and links.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great advice! I used QueryTracker as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just wish I could have added my own personal information. That, and it makes me nervous to have it all on the web where I can't save it to five different flash drives. :)

      Delete
  7. I love the spreadsheet with contact info, etc--but do you have another one for the actual queries? Like the date you queried, what the response was, when you sent the requested material, etc? I can totally share mine, if you like. :) I also like to color-code it--dark grey for rejections, yellow for requests.... :)

    And you forgot to mention Literary Rambles (http://www.literaryrambles.com/)--I check out every agent I query there. They don't have everyone yet, but they have a LOT--and they have links to other sites with info, interviews, etc. SUCH an awesome resource.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Literary Rambles is definitely a good site. I do add some columns to the sheet once I'm ready to send out the queries. I have a query sent date and a request sent date. They are color coded yellow when it's sent, Red if they decline and green if they ask for more. :)

      Delete
  8. Querytracker's my favorite so far. I've started a very preliminary spreadsheet but I'm crap at Excel! lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me and excel are besties. We do everything together. :)

      Delete
  9. I keep spreadsheets for my projects' querying status and a separate text file with extra notes, too. I also keep a running total, so I know how may queries/requests are still out, and how many rejections I've gotten. Spreadsheets are very helpful. Good luck on your querying, Sarah! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I kept a word document. I made a list of agent names, if I sent the query or query + X pages, and full or rejection. (I didn't get any partials). This would let me know if the query or the pages were the problem, if I got low request rates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think with almost everyone going digital it doesn't really make sense to request partials anymore. It's actually easier for an author to send the full and it doesn't cost more (like it used to with shipping). The agent can stop reading whenever they like, but the full is already there if they love it. At least, that's my take on it. :)

      Delete
  11. I'm really in awe of your organizational skills! I'm a big fan of Querytracker, since it does some of the work for me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. We're self pubbing, following Konrath's model. Even so, this past Jan we created a similar Xcel sheet to track and follow up on Book review bloggers we asked to read and comment on our first novel.

    For most reviewer blog sites, they ask for a query and then let you know if they're willing to read and review. We spent literally days and days online sourcing blogs, sending queries and creating and updating the spreadsheet.

    Now, as we're finishing the second book in the series, we have a list to work with of several hundred romance book bloggers, contact info and what they think of our work.

    Sorry, Sarah, but you're neither OCD nor anal retentive. You're simply being as responsible businesswoman marketing your product as you were a creative artist in crafting your opus. From what I've researched so far, every, and I mean EVERY successful author has had to wear both hats starting out (except maybe those who are great writers living on trust funds, I dunno). Get my drift?

    I'm dying to BUY your book when it's pubbed. If it's half as good as this blog it's a winner.

    ReplyDelete

Share the love, man...