QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

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.

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