Query and the Spreadsheet

I’ve been talking a lot about the Query process and I wanted to add some of my over-the-top, anal, OCD to the mix.  Let me be clear that I’m no professional, hell, I haven’t even gotten my own agent yet (see what I did there – positivity folks), but I have been running the gamut so take my advice…or don’t…it’s up to you.  I was recently told by me De-Mentor (that’s the name she prefers I call her) that until I get 100 rejections it’s not time to give up the ghost.  After all, she didn’t get an agent until her fourth book, so patience is a definite virtue in this arduous process.  She’s my hero and source of inspiration when I think about giving up, in addition to reading my post about famous authors that were rejected before success (see post The Writing Struggle Is Real or visit:  http://www.litrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/ ).

This post is about being organized so you don’t look like an ass in front of the entire publishing community while you’re Querying.  I can’t stress the importance of keeping some type of log of your Querying adventure – consider it your depressing diary on the road to becoming an author.  Without this you will be lost and will  likely send multiple Queries to the same agent/agency – rookie move!

I use an Excel spreadsheet that has my tier 1 agents, tier 2 agents and the tier 3 agents that I’m really don’t interest me.  It is also important that you fully research those agents/agencies you want to Query.  I know it takes quite a bit of time (trust me) but throwing darts at an agency board to decide who you send your Query letter to is not only ineffective, it’s down right idiotic.  Here are the important things to research on an agent/agency’s website or social media before you decide to send them a Query:

  • what type of genre are they interested in?  If your book is Sci-Fi and they only represent Romance authors, don’t waste your time or theirs.
  • are they currently taking unsolicited Queries?  If not, don’t bother.
  • what type of authors do they currently represent, are they like you, do they work in your genre?
  • what is their success rate with authors, are any of their clients best sellers/successes?
  • do they also work with multi-media platforms, like movies, TV, video games, etc.  This is important if you think (or want) your book could get picked up as a movie/TV series.
  • see if they have a blog or twitter (or any social media for that matter) and check it out before you Query them.  You might find out some useful information that could connect you to them.
  • lastly, I never recommend Querying an agency without having a specific agent in mind.  Many authors do this, but I don’t think it’s as effective as directing your Query to a particular agent.  Research all of the agents on the agency’s site and pick one that you think will be a good fit for your project, or at least someone connected to your genre.  If you can’t find any agent with that agency that you can connect with then you probably shouldn’t be Querying that agency.

Okay, now that you’ve researched your agencies/agents, you need to start your spreadsheet.  I suggest you keep the following in your spreadsheet/log or whatever you want to use:

  • date that you submitted/sent the Query
  • agency name
  • agency web site
  • agent name that you directed the Query to
  • agent email address
  • what their guideline was, IE: just Query letter, or Query letter and first three chapters, synopsis only, etc.
  • a space for your rejection date (sorry, it’s going to happen) or “no response” as all agencies have a time allotted for hearing back, IE: if you don’t hear from us within eight weeks, assume we have passed on your project.  And if that time runs out and you haven’t heard back, you can gently remind them of your Query  with a follow up email or simply mark them as a no.  I actually haven’t sent a reminder email as I assume that if I haven’t heard, they aren’t interested – but who knows?
  • lastly, and possibly most importantly, a section for notes.  Either notes on the agent you queried, or things you wanted to bring up about them in your Query (the last one I Queried mentioned that she loved Assassin’s Creed video games and since I too like Assassin’s Creed I mentioned it in my email hoping to make a connection.  You may also want to have a separate section for notes on the rejection itself.  Did they give you any criticism that could be useful?  Maybe you need to take their comments and change your approach/Query letter.

If you’re organized in your approach you will be viewed as a professional by the agents you Query.  The last thing you want to do is look like a novice that doesn’t care enough to spend your time or energy on the success of your own project.  From what I’ve read in agent blogs, they do talk to each other about authors so don’t assume that whatever you say or do in your Query will not be spread around in the industry.  New York City is a big place…until it comes to the publishing industry.

For more information about finding multiple agents that you can Query, check out the latest edition of The Writer’s Market, or visit http://mswishlist.com/.

5 thoughts on “Query and the Spreadsheet”

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