QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, December 31, 2007

QT 2 is Now Live

After two long months of development, QT2 is now up and running. I thought it would take most of the day, but things went smoothly and it was ready by about 9am on December 31st.

Of course, it is far from being done. I will be tweaking and adding things to it for several weeks. I figure I was able to incorporate about two-thirds of the features I wanted to add, so I still have some work ahead of me. If you made a suggestion for a new feature but don't see it, it probably just means I haven't gotten to it yet. If you want to contact me to see if your feature is on the list, please go right ahead.

The first thing most people will likely notice is the new menu system. The original menu became quite cluttered as more and more features were added. This one is cleaner and can grow without getting ugly.

The other thing that stands out almost right away is all the on-screen help. Just put your mouse over any of the yellow question marks to get instant help. Plus, almost any icon also has help attatched, which can be viewed just by placing your mouse over it.

Enjoy and Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

QueryTracker Version 2 Quickly Approaching

With a self-imposed deadline of January 1st, I've been very busy working on the new version of QueryTracker (which explains why I haven't been doing much blogging.) Yesterday I opened up QT2 to a group of beta testers who are giving it a full workout, and even though not all of the components are there, feedback has already been good.

Sadly, I won't have everything done by the deadline, but there is still plenty of new stuff and I am still planning to release everything available on Jan. 1. So, what will be different in QT2? Plenty. Where do I even begin?

  • Greatly expanded search tools for searching for agents, including geographic region, and more.

  • A system of user-definable "folders" so you can organize agents and queries.

  • A Query List page showing all of the agents you have queried, sorted however you want and contained in a tree structure with branches for each manuscript and folder.

  • Tracking has been expanded and broken into two categories; query letters and manuscript submissions, so now you can track all phases of your agent quest and view more detailed statistics about each category.

  • An agent "Watch" feature which allows you to select agents and be notified if any user adds a comment for that agent or anything about the agent's profile changes.

  • Tons of content sensitive help, making it easier to use the system to its fullest potential.

  • So many little improvements that I can't even think of them all, but one that has been a big hit with the beta testers is a pop-up status window which displays a quick query status for any query just by moving your mouse over an icon. (Hard to explain, you'll just have to see it to appreciate it.)

  • Word-count reports showing each agent's reply history based on the word-count of the manuscript.

  • Genre reports showing each agent's reply history based on the genre of the manuscript. (This was previously only available to premium members but in QT2 standard members will have full access to it.)
All of the above features, and more, are included as part of the free (standard) membership, the list of new features for premium members is even better, here are a few:

  • Even more detailed search capabilities.

  • Additional agent reports.

  • Personal statistics showing the statistics or your own queries and submissions, which you can breakdown by manuscript and folder, and view as easy-to-read pie charts.

  • The ability to customize reports by selecting your own date ranges so you can view data from any time frame.

  • The ability to create your own custom reports based on all the data collected by QT2. You define the criteria and the system will create and display the results for you.

Like I said, I will release the new version Jan. 1, and will continue to add to it after that because there is still so much more I want to do.

Also, note that while creating the new system, I have been very careful to keep the user-interface as similar as possible to that of the old system, so users will not have to relearn a lot of stuff.

The site will likely be unavailable for some time on December 31st while I install the new system. See you then, and I hope you like it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I know, some of you readers may not be from the USA, but you can still be thankful, and certainly I can wish you well.

As for you NaNoWrMo writers, you had your break, now get back to work.

Friday, November 9, 2007

QueryTracker Theme Song

A QueryTracker user just sent me a link to this video (Thanks Lee) and I think it is the perfect theme song for QueryTracker.

Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TLmpL2AzLs

Not only is it appropriate and uplifting, but it also reminded me of the old days (those of you old enough to remember E.L.O. will understand.)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Critique and criticism

A question came up in the forum recently that I would like to address in a little more detail than I could there, and without the smilies, of course. One of our regulars brought up an interesting question. Why is it that when people critique other's work, they are always critical and rarely tout the positives of the work in question. Since words are writers' most basic tools, let's examine the word critique so that we all know what we are talking about.

Merriam-Webster defines the word "critique" as: To examine critically, or: Review. Pretty straight forward, yes? But just to be sure, what does it mean to do something critically or with criticism? Again, Merriam-Webster says it is the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature. Okay, so it is all about reviewing, evaluating or analyzing. So what do we do when we do these things?

When someone evaluates your work, they are trying to determine the significance, worth, or condition of it by careful appraisal and study. Okay, I stole that from the dictionary again, but you see what I am getting at. They are scrutinizing your work and are looking for anything that might be wrong. Reviewing is really the same thing, so I won't give you another definition there, and analysis is the separation of a whole into its component parts. So as you can see, it is a process intended to study your work in depth and to see what is wrong with it, or determine its condition as stated above.

This is a difficult experience for most of us who write, because in our minds we have created something we hope people will find breathtaking and wonderful, and then when we put it out there for people to see, all they seem to want to do is tear it apart. They tell us there are too many adjectives. The prose is too flowery. You use too many adverbs. Don't you think a sentence to describe the moon in the clouds would suffice instead of an entire paragraph? There is always something these people can find fault with! I wrote that stuff because I liked it, you know? Yeah they know, but if you are writing this stuff for yourself and you don't want to hear what they have to say, then you might as well not bother trying to get published. There will be a lot of theys between your first draft and your first edition, and they will all want something changed.

And that is where your critique group or writing circle comes in. As a writer, you will need a group of people who understand your style and what you are trying to accomplish through your writing, but at the same time will not be afraid to tell you when something needs to go, because believe me, some of the stuff that you love so much needs to go. They are there to evaluate, review, and analyze your work. Listen to what they have to say, because this group of supportive, yet unrelenting critiquers will prepare you for the true difficulties you will be facing if your work ever does reach the hands of a professional editor. Don't expect any compliments on your turns of phrase from them, intrepid adventurers. These guys mean business. They will hack your manuscript to pieces and tell you to put it back together, only better this time. And then expect you to THANK them!! And you should be grateful to them, and to your critique group, because if your work has gone that far, it will be thanks to a group of people who were willing to risk the wrath of your artistic tantrums and spend the time and effort to help get you past the things you would not have been able to get past yourself. In my opinion, that's way better than, "I really liked your description of the moon in the clouds." Anyone can offer a compliment, but it takes real guts and effort to offer a well thought-out critique.

P.S. When I finished the first draft of this post, I left it for Patrick to review, evaluate, and analyze, and he critiqued my original work as being, "unfocused." Hopefully when you all help the writers in your writing circles, your critiques will be a bit more, umm... focused. And specific. But it was still very appropriate for the material, so I thought I would mention it. Carry on, and good luck to all you NaNoWriMo fanatics out there.

(A note from Patrick. Jason, this is much more focused now. I'm glad I could help, and I am always thankful when a writer asks my opinions and then does not hate me for giving them. Not that I am a harsh editor or anything like that. Right Jason?

I consider this a very important subject for all writers. Those who learn to accept criticism are typically the writers who improve dramatically in their craft, and those who give good critiques improve even more. Just remember, you need to be honest without being harsh. Don't just say something is bad, tell why it is bad and try to give examples of how to improve it. The writer, of course, has the option of acting upon your suggestions or not, but still you are both learning.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Latest QT Newsletter

Well, I’m a bit behind on this newsletter again, but as usual things on QueryTracker have been busy, and as usual, I am using that as my excuse.

Last month I mentioned that the QueryTracker membership had doubled every month since its inception, and that I hoped we could keep that up. Well, I was skeptical about it at the time since in order to double our membership in October we would have had to sign up 1,500 members. That would have been a lot of new members, and unfortunately we didn’t quite make it. But I’m not disappointed because we came really close and had our best month ever with about 1,000 new members, giving us a total of 2,500+ users. The data pool is also filling up nicely with over 16,000 queries being tracked.

These phenomenal numbers would not have been possible without the kind contributions of our Premium Members. For those of you who don’t know, Premium Members are members who have donated $25 to QueryTracker to help it grow. 100% of all funds collected goes to purchase advertising. This advertising brings in more members and hence more data for everyone. In exchange for their generosity, Premium Members are given access to some advanced features on QueryTracker not available to general members.

I recently ran across a blog that was so full of useful information for writers that I thought I just had to point it out to others. The blog is http://writesabouteverything.blogspot.com/ and it is written by a QueryTracker user named Deborah White. On it you can find information about agent contracts, book rights, query letters, and a lot more. It really is worth looking at. And speaking of worthy blogs, my good friend Jason Robinson has written a very good little article on coping with rejection. It is on the QueryTracker blog at http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2007/10/rejection.html.

New Agents - Guilty Until Proven Innocent
I am asked all the time to add new agents to the QueryTracker database. I encourage users to submit new agents and I’m always happy to add them, but only if they pass certain criteria. There are a lot of so called agents out there who do not have a writer’s best interests at heart, and I do everything I can to keep them off of the QueryTracker list. Which means I subscribe to the guilty until proven innocent school of thought when it comes to agents. If someone proposes an agent and I can’t find enough evidence online to relieve suspicion, then that “agent” is not going to be listed. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes legitimate agents are rejected, but I would rather err on the side of caution and not list a hundred legitimate agents then to list one scammer. I do this because I feel it is my obligation to protect QueryTracker users from these scammers.

For those of you who have submitted agents that were not listed, I apologize for any inconvenience. If you have any evidence in support of them, please email me so it can be resolved.

So, does that mean you can be absolutely sure that there are no scammer agents listed on QueryTracker? I wish that were true, but sadly no. I say no because you should never trust any single source when agents are concerned. Always get a second, third and fourth opinion. Double check with AgentQuery, Preditors & Editors, Writer’s Beware and other such sites. And not just for legitimacy either. Check contact info and submission requirements as well. What you are doing is too important to leave to chance. There is no such thing as a one-stop source for agent information.

Success Stories
I am starting a bookshelf of sorts. This bookshelf will contain the books of QueryTracker users who, with the help of QueryTracker, have found agents. So if anyone out there has a success story to share, please let me know.

QueryTracker version 2.0
I am also hard at work on a new version of QueryTracker. It will be faster and easier to use, while still retaining all the features and abilities you have come to know and appreciate. So, if you have ever wished QueryTracker would include another feature or found something that you thought would work better another way, here is your chance to speak up. All suggestions, ideas, bug reports, and criticisms are appreciated and will be considered.

Please use this link to make a suggestion http://querytracker.net/contact.php?q=2

Thank you, and until next time, keep writing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A New Milestone

The QueryTracker membership just broke 2,000! And I wanted to thank the writers out there for making this possible.

The site has been a huge success, and I hope it is helping authors to connect with agents. Judging from the feedback and emails I've gotten, I'd say yes.

The data and statistics continue to grow and provide more and more insight. Certainly, there are still a lot of agents who have little or no data collected for them. But the popular agents, the ones most actively seeking new clients, are well covered.

I am planning a new round of improvements next week after things slow down on my day job (stupid day job). These will include the results of our word count reports, and... Well, I'll surprise you.

Keep writing.


Rejection is one of the most difficult parts of this business, but it is something that you will have to learn to deal with if you are going to try to become a writer. Even the best queries are going to be rejected, sometimes by hundreds of people, before the right person reads it. Even then rejection looms. A majority of manuscripts requested from authors end up being rejected as well. Sounds depressing, doesn't it? Well, that's because it is. I won't bore you with the numbers regarding how many writers are trying to get published and how many books got published this year, but I will say this. You are going to get rejected. A lot.

If you are still reading, that means that you are willing to accept the sobering facts laid out above and are still ready to go on. Congratulations! You are either an optimist or just plain stubborn, but either way you have a better chance at gaining representation than the people who are turned away by the thought of such adversity. The reason for this is that even if you have a good product, it takes a lot of work to even get anyone to look at it, and that takes a person who will continue knocking on doors until someone finally opens one. Look at J.K. Rowling. She queried many agents before one finally believed in her "little wizard" book, and now she's richer that the Queen. Literally. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that if you keep plugging along that one day you will be richer than the Queen of England. I am saying, however, that if you have worked hard and created something that you believe in, then you should not let a "no" from one agent or a thousand agents deter you. Just look at the statistics on Query Tracker and you will see that people are querying a lot, and though I one day hope to see it filled, that column that says "Request for Representation" on the agent's stats is empty most of the time. It is up to us to try and change that.

Pat and I are looking forward to the day when we can create another page on Query Tracker, and that is the page where we display the authors who got book deals while querying through the site. We have several that are close and for whom we are pulling wholeheartedly, and though we don't know all of our 2,000-plus members personally, we are pulling for them too. Because a victory for them is a victory for all of us. It is encouragement and hope that maybe we will be the next ones to post our books on the Query Tracker bookshelf. Here at Query Tracker we offer tools and support to help you through this frustrating and difficult time in your life as a writer. I mean, if you're gonna go on a journey like this, you might as well have the best navigation you can get, right? So keep those queries rolling, and remember, the next rejection may just be your last.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Social Data Gathering

Social Data Gathering is one of the coolest things about Query Tracker, so for those of you who don't know about it or don't really get it, let me explain.

Here at Querytracker.net we have a community of users all trying to accomplish the same thing: become an author published through a reputable publishing house. Up until the point that Query Tracker came along we were all in pretty much the same boat with the same limited tools. We had a list of agents that contained their names and addresses and the kind of books they repped. Not bad, but not great either. You could go through and pick out some agents, mail some queries, and then wait for your rejection letters. Once all the rejections came in and you decided to search for a new batch of agents, you had to wade through the same list all over again, looking at the same agents that you had already queried. This is really what brought Query Tracker into being. Now on your Query Tracker manuscripts page, you can filter out the agents that you have already queried, and when you search for new agents you see right away the ones that already rejected you. As convenient and helpful as this is, it is really only the tip of the iceberg.

"Social Data Gathering" is a term coined by Patrick McDonald that describes what we do at Query Tracker. We take a group of people with a common goal and we use their combined power to benefit everyone. It's like a good form of Communism! Everyone contributes and everyone benefits, but no one has to call anyone comrade or carry a little red book. The Internet has the power to bring people from all over the country and the world together, and Social Data Gathering uses that power to allow them to share their resources! Here's how it works.

How often have you sent out a query and waited and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Or even worse, a manuscript? Well, with Social Data Gathering, we have taken information from each person who has experienced this before you and generated a report that shows you how long this agent usually takes to respond to a query or a manuscript, so you will have an idea about when the best time to follow up is. The way this works is, each time a user on Query Tracker marks a query as sent, the database records that and then waits until it sees the user mark it as returned with either a rejection or a request for more material. That information tells us how long, on average, it takes for the agent to respond to an author. It also tells us how often he or she accepts or rejects queries and manuscripts, and it shows us which genre the agent prefers. Many new writers worry about the word count of their novel being too large because it is often said that agents will not take a risk on new authors with high word count first novels, so we added a place for writers to enter their word counts so that we can see if there is any truth to this statement. There is also much speculation on whether or not agents are seasonal, meaning that they don't respond as rapidly, or at all, during the summer months. Query Tracker is also using user data to watch this trend in order to validate or dispel this theory.

But one of the more underused and possibly most valuable features of the Social Data Gathering suite on Query Tracker is the ability to post a query on an agent's page. This allows each user that is considering submitting to that agent to see what sort of query they are more likely to respond to, thereby giving authors the ability to tailor their queries to suit the agents' tastes. If you are considering posting a query on an agent's page, be sure to remove all personal information, such as name and address. I also realize that many authors are worried that someone might see their idea and try to steal it, but the reality is that the chances of that are slim to none. You can also remove any details about your plot, title, etc. What people need to see is whether an agent responded to a by-the-book query or a quirky, offbeat type of query.

Authors also have the ability to post comments on an agent's page regarding submission preferences, and any other information that they think might be pertinent and useful in deciding whether or not to query the agent.

One of the biggest problems for authors trying to acquire an agent to rep their book has always been that it seems to be such a crapshoot. You either get lucky, or don't. With Query Tracker's Social Data Gathering, we are trying to change the way authors target agents. The more information we have to narrow the search, the less it feels like scattering seed and more like putting that arrow in the bullseye.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Another introduction.

Well, as strange as it seems introducing myself in this particular arena, I suppose I will do just that. You will be seeing my ramblings here, so I suppose it's only fair that you know who I am and why I get to place my little musings onto this particular blog.

First, my name is Jason Robinson, and I am the co-founder of Querytracker.net. Although in all fairness, Patrick McDonald is the true founder of the site, I was there when we had the idea, so regardless of the fact that he does all the work, I still get the title. And I intend to keep it. Pat and I have been working and writing together for nearly twenty years, so this is hardly our first attempt at working as a team. In this arena, I let him do all the work and criticize him for it later. He returns the favor in our writing ventures. I just wish I could tell him "You need to cut out all the adverbs on your site," but apparently adverbs have nothing to do with programming.

The idea behind Querytracker is a simple one, and it came about through necessity. We were shopping our middle grade science fantasy novel "Farwalkers: The First Crossing" to agents, and I was getting frustrated with having to slog through Agentquery every few months just to gather a decent list of prospective agents. We discussed this for a while and the idea for Query Tracker was born. Since then it has become far more than just a resource for writers who want to find an agent. We have since added statistics to better target your queries, a forum to discuss ideas and methods with other writers, and we have even been accused of being a cult! If you do stop by the forum, make sure you drop into the Quillkeeper's Tavern and enjoy a nice glass of Kool-Aid.

Anyway, you will be seeing much more of me here, so I will keep this short for now. In the future I will be discussing the revolutionary features of Query Tracker, and writing and querying topics of all sorts, so check back often. Until then, keep writing!


Tuesday, October 2, 2007


This week is the six month anniversary of QueryTracker. Yes, six months ago QueryTracker didn't exist. In fact, it wasn't even an idea.

It all began over lunch at a local Pizza Hut. I was discussing the query process with my friend and fellow writer Jason when the thought just hit us. It was one of those simultaneous ideas and so neither one of us can be certain who had the idea first, but what mattered is we both saw it as a great tool for writers.

I was in between writing projects and was actually working on creating a video game. But the game was taking way to long, and since I lack the artistic talents required for modern game graphics, I decided to set it aside and create QT. I can be a tad bit obsessive when I am working on something like this, and so I ended up spending lots of evenings and weekends (and sleepless nights) until it was finished. About a month later QueryTracker went online for the first time and it has been doing great ever since.

So, what's in store for the next six months? Besides continuing to grow and collect data, I have ideas for several new features and am taking requests from users for even more. If anyone would like to add to the list, just drop me a line.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Calling all QueryTracker Bloggers

I would like to start by linking to all the QueryTracker users out there who also blog. So if you would like me to add you to the list just leave a comment and let me know.

(And, since I'm new at this whole blogging thing, if anyone has any pointers, I'd appreciate that, too.)

I cheated, what can I say?

I admit it. I cheated. I just started this blog and needed some content, so I hopped over to my website and copied some of the stuff from there. But now I'm out of things to copy so the rest will have to be original. Now what do I do?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What is QueryTracker?

QueryTracker is not just another list of agents. In fact, our agent list is secondary to the real purpose and power of QueryTracker.

QueryTracker is a model for what I like to call "Social Data Gathering." Which means our users each contribute data about their query and agent experiences. Alone this data does not reveal much, but when combined with the data from our ever-growing membership, we can see trends and identify important aspects of an individual agent's actions.

How does it work?
When a user queries an agent, they record the following data about that query:

  • Date Sent
  • How Sent (Email, Regular Mail)
  • To Whom was the Query Sent
  • Genre of Manuscript
  • Word Count of the Manuscript
  • Date of Response
  • Type of Response
  • etc.

What can you learn from this information and how does it help?
With this data, QueryTracker can reveal, on an agent-by-agent basis:

  • The overall number of queries sent to each agent and their accept/reject history.
    This can tell you how busy an agent is, but it also reveals how much an agent is actively seeking new authors. An agent that requests to read more manuscripts is obviously more interested in new authors than the ones that seem to reject everything they receive.

  • The genre-specific accept/reject history for an agent.
    This reveals the agents who are actively seeking certain genres. Just because an agent says they are interested in a particular genre, doesn't mean they are interested right now. With this you can find the agent who is requesting to read more manuscripts of the genre you write, allowing you to better target your queries. This feature requires premium membership.

  • Agent response times.
    By tracking sent and received dates (for queries and manuscript submissions) we can soften some of the pain of the waiting game.

  • Seasonal data.
    Are certain times of the year better for some agents and not for others? Now we can see and reveal any trends that may exist. This feature requires premium membership.

  • Newly added, we are now collecting data about manuscript word count.
    This will tell you which agents think certain books are too long, or too short, and help you to find agents who have already accepted manuscripts of the same size as yours.

  • We continue to expand.
    New ideas for data gathering and reports are always being recommend and implemented, and the site continues to grow both in features and users.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Why is Query Tracker FREE?

Query Tracker is free because it needs to be free.

Besides tracking the status of your query letter, Query Tracker also collects data about each query and provides statistics on a per agent basis. For these statistics to be as valuable as possible there must be a lot of data, which requires a lot of users, and free means more users.

Query Tracker is also free because there are countless scammers and crooks out there trying to rip off writers, and I did not want for a second to be confused with one of them. The best way to do that was to offer Query Tracker for free and put to rest permanently the question of money.

Of course, maintaining a website like Query Tracker is not free for me, that’s why I had to place advertisements on the site and I included a donations button.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why I Created QueryTracker

As a struggling author, I knew there would be plenty of obstacles to overcome before I could achieve the dream of publication. But I quickly discovered the hardest part was not writing a book. The hardest part is to find a literary agent to represent your book.

Sure, there are websites that try to help. There are those which offer lists of literary agents, but finding the agent's name was just the beginning. Of course I had to write the query letter, but a major problem turned out to be how to keep track of all those query letters. Who did I already query? Which literary agents looked promising, and which were just not suited for my work.

I was faced with the same problems every time I sent out a new batch of query letters. Sure I kept a list of which agent I already queried, but, as that list grew, it became harder and harder to keep track. I found myself reading profiles for literary agents I had already determined were not suitable, or spending time on an agent just to realize that I had already queried her once before.

I thought how nice it would be if I could just check a box beside the agent's name and forever mark her as queried. I could even go back after receiving that all-too-common rejection and, by checking another box, record that, too.

While I’m at it, why not make the website insert the literary agent’s name and address right into my query letter for quicker and easier printing. After all, I’ve got real writing to do, I don’t need to waste my time typing in addresses. And don’t even get me started on self addressed envelopes.

And then the real power of this website hit me. With all this information, and with enough users on the site and contributing, we could take a lot of the guess work out of query writing. What if you could see samples of the last ten queries which a given literary agent had read and liked? What if every user posted his or her query letters, then linked them to the agent where they were sent and indicated what response, if any, the letter received? With this information it would be possible to see the types of queries the agent liked, and either modify your letter accordingly, or move on to a different agent who has shown interest in work like yours. Now, I felt I was on to something. I hadn’t been this excited since the first time I wrote, “The End.”

So, I took this wishlist and I created QueryTracker.net, and now, although publication still eludes me, at least the query process has become much more organized and therefore faster and easier.