QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Friday, March 20, 2015

Querying with Efficiency and Accuracy

When I first stumbled across QueryTracker, I was sure I was "almost ready" to query. I created my QueryTracker account, started saving agents to my list, and worked on polishing my novel with my critique partners.

Eight long months later, the novel that was "almost ready" was "actually ready." These things always take longer than you think they will, but that is beside the point today. Those eight months did something wonderful for the time I spent querying, though: they gave me a long time to prepare.

Since I was querying a YA dystopian and knew they weren't doing well in the market (well, I knew it by the time I started querying. I did not know it when I wrote the book), I decided I would query 50 agents and then shelve it to work on something else.

QueryTracker made the process of deciding on the 50 agents quick and easy. I used the search feature to only look at agents who represented young adult and added them to my query list. All you have to do to add them to your query list is check the box on the left by their name, like in the screenshot below.

But just adding every single agent who repped young adult was going to get me a lot more than 50 agents, plus I knew different agencies had different rules about whether you could query more than one of their agents, and then there was the whole "you should probably mesh with them if they'll be handling your career" aspect.

So instead of clicking on everyone's check box, I clicked on their names. From there, you can find links to their agency's website, their blogs, their Twitter feeds, common places for interviews... and I spent months researching agents. In the end, I found my 50 agents. In addition to adding them to my QueryTracker list, I made a spreadsheet of my own. I've always liked having duplicates of information, and personalized things in my spreadsheet that I didn't do on QueryTracker. Here's a screenshot of some of my (randomized and made anonymous) list.

On the far left is an arbitrary "Priority" rating I wouldn't have needed if I'd used QueryTracker premium. The C agents were in the third group of 10 queries I sent out. The next column is name, followed by email address. The fourth column was the most useful to me: whenever I went to submit to an agent, I could check my spreadsheet to see exactly what they were looking for. The second row shows "email: 'submission Deans: Damaged' query, first 10 pages of MS." That person wanted an email with the subject line "Submission [Last Name: Title of MS]." They wanted the query and the first 10 pages pasted in.

Knowing that, I would grab my generic query, personalize it based on what I'd read in interviews (especially the information in the last column), add in the number of pages, and press send. I'd then go to QueryTracker to mark that I'd sent a submission to that agent, and add it to my spreadsheet for redundancy.

Turning querying into something akin to data entry worked for me. With the exception of one email glitch resulting in a 20-page sample with no paragraph breaks, I was able to send my submissions quickly and accurately. It also turned off the emotional part of querying. Every query I sent was a button on QueryTracker and a line in a spreadsheet. Every rejection I received was another button. I would fill in my personal spreadsheet with red for each rejection. I felt like I was just finishing a spreadsheet for work that way, and it stung less, especially when querying in a dead genre.

I'm getting ready to query again soon. The only thing I'll do differently is get the QueryTracker Premium membership. With the ability to open a new project in the database, prioritize agents, and use the amazing data explorer, plus a million other awesome things, it was the only thing missing from my first querying adventure. Well, that and an offer of rep. But that was probably a given.

1 comment:

Kim English said...

Great post! I love the QT database for searching for agents and keeping track of queries! With the premium membership you can also find agents with similar tastes and you can add them to your list.