In case you’re just joining this series, I started it because a writer queried me and brought it to my attention that some newer writers may not know how to build an agent spreadsheet. We’re now on the fifth post in the series (sixth if you count the one I’d written last year on finding books agents represent). To find them all, click on the How to Research Agents category to the right.
So, now that you’ve put in the basic details, researched what the agents are looking for, figured out what you want from the agent relationship, and inputted the agents’ submission guidelines, it’s time to put in the front-end details that will help you determine how to organize the agents into querying rounds. For this purpose, I insert six columns to the left of the agent’s name. If you were working ahead in the last post, you may have already inserted one of these, so adjust as needed.
|Rank||Round||Note||[Genre/Cat] requests?||Sub note||Responds?|
I’m going to explain these out of order, starting with the one you may have already completed if you worked ahead. And I’ll warn you in advance–we won’t fill out all of these today.
While I don’t include full submission guidelines in my spreadsheet because they often change, I do put a brief note at the front end of my spreadsheet. For example, this column might say: query only, 5 pages, synopsis + 3 chapters, online form, etc. However, I always go back to the link in the Submission Guidelines column when I’m ready to prepare my submission, and if you haven’t already completed this step, that’s where you should go now to find the information.
Here’s why I like to have it up front. When you’re ready to query, there are different pieces of your submission package: your query, your first pages, your synopsis. You will want to test out these different pieces, and depending on how confident you are in each piece, it may be beneficial to choose agents for your first round based on what they request with that initial submission. So you may want to include a few agents who want a query only, a few who want a query and the first five pages, a few who want a query, synopsis and pages, and so on. Having the information at the front of the spreadsheet may help you decide which agents to try first.
You may be able to fill in this column from your research into submission guidelines. Check your Response Times column and see what the agency/agent resources said. I just put a simple yes/no in this column. But don’t give up if there wasn’t an answer. If you decide to purchase a premium QueryTracker membership, you can still answer this question. I’ll get to that below.
Ooh, I have so much fun with this! However, it does require a premium QueryTracker membership and some time. The premium membership is $25 but totally worth it for the statistics it gives you access to. While you can track some agent response times to queries through the comments section on each agent’s profile, you can see real-time responses within the Data Explorer with the premium membership. I use it as a tool to see how much of my genre/category the agent has requested in the past year. There are two easy ways to get to this report in QueryTracker. Since your spreadsheet is probably still sorted by agency, we’ll start this way:
- Click on Search for Literary Agents.
- On the left-hand side, click on the Agent or Agency Name option, then type in the agency name. It will pull up all of the agents at that agency.
- Click on the blue “Ex” in the agent’s row to pull up the report of all queries logged in the system.
- To narrow the report by your genre or category, click on the arrow to the right of the “All Genres” pull-down menu and select the desired category or genre. (QueryTracker calls Young Adult and Middle Grade genres, even though these really are age categories.)
- Go through and count the number of requests for your category or genre. I generally do the past year. Whatever you decide, use the same cut-off date for all of the agents so you have the same sample.
- In the [Genre/Cat] Requests? column, type in “[number] requests in last [time period]”.
- At the top of the page, click on Search for Literary Agents and it will return you to the page with the list of agents at the agency you searched for.
Alternatively, you can navigate to each individual agent’s profile, click on the Reports tab, click on the “Data Explorer” link, then follow steps 4-6 above.
You can use this same report to determine if an agent responds to queries for the Responds? column. Depending on how quickly they respond, you may need to click back through a few pages, but this report will show either requests, rejections or closed due to no response.
You may be thinking, “Wait, Michelle, there’s already a Notes column!” Well, yeah, that’s why this one’s called Note without the “s”. Ok, I know that’s lame, and you can call it something else if it’s less confusing for you. This column is basically my catch-all for any information I don’t want to miss as I’m organizing agents into querying rounds. Here are a few things I note in this column:
- If I’ve met/will meet the agent at a conference. In the latter case, I might want to hold off querying them until after.
- If they are participating in an online contest that I plan to enter, I list the contest’s name. That way I also know to hold off querying until after.
- If the agent has requested one of my previous manuscripts.
- If the agent represents someone I know personally.
- If the agent requests exclusives.
- If an agent is closed to queries, I mark it along with the length of time if that’s mentioned.
- Once I’ve started querying and receive requests, I use this column to track statistics from another fun report in QueryTracker: Agents with Similar Tastes. I’m not going to get into that today since presumably you haven’t queried yet–I didn’t use it for my first manuscript. However, I will address it in the final post when we add the querying fields.
After researching these agents and their tastes, you should have a pretty good idea of which agents you’re most interested in. I assign each agent a rank based on how likely I think they are to be a fit for my current manuscript. My rankings range from 1 to 4 with .5 increments, but you can use whatever system you want. But because this column is one of the ways I sort the spreadsheet when I’m ready to start separating the agents into querying rounds, it’s also necessary to mark agents I can’t query differently. So if an agent is closed to queries, I put N/A (not applicable) in that column.
I also use this column to make a selection for those agencies where I can only query one agent. By assessing all of the data–what they’re looking for, how many requests they’ve made, whether they respond, etc.–I choose which agent at that agency is the best fit, assign him/her a ranking, and put N/A for the others at that agency. You may even want to move those agents to a new sheet in your spreadsheet labeled N/A to de-clutter it. That’s totally up to you, though. I’d keep the ones who are closed to queries on your main sheet as they may re-open before you finish querying. If they do, you can assign them a rank and make them active.
Querying strategy is too long to cover in a paragraph, and there isn’t one right answer, so it’s going to have to be a separate post. I’ll cover that next week with some ideas on how you might approach ordering the agents on your list. I’ve done it differently with every manuscript, so don’t expect a step-by-step process. What you can expect is to have a lot of information from which to develop your own strategy.
Other posts in this series:
- How to Research Agents: Submission Guidelines
- How to Research Agents: What Are You Looking For?
- How to Research Agents: Starting A Spreadsheet
- How to Research Agents: What They’re Looking For
- How to Find Books Agents Represent