How to Research Agents: Ready to Query

It’s here! The final post! When I started this series, I had no idea it would take so many weeks to get through populating an agent spreadsheet. Wait. That’s not true. I knew it took that long to do the research. I just didn’t realize it would take me that long to explain it. But here we are, about to add the last few columns to the spreadsheet. All that’s left are the actual fields to track the queries. So, to the right of the Auto Response? column, add the following five columns:

Query Sent Should hear back by: Query Response Partial Response Full Response

Now, since I love to make use of the statistics in QueryTracker, I also pay it forward and track my queries there as well, but while QueryTracker will show me nice circle graphs with percentages of how many positive and negative responses I have, it doesn’t show me qualitative information all in one place like my own spreadsheet. So, here’s how I use each of these fields.

In the Query Sent field I just put the date I sent the query. Easy, right? I have noticed that for sorting purposes it works best if you put a zero in front of January through September dates, i.e., 04/14/14. Then, I calculate when I should hear back from the agent by referring to the Response Time field. If the agent lists a specific number of weeks in which he/she will respond, I count it out on my calendar and plug that date into the Should hear back by: field. If it’s an agent who says “six weeks if interested,” then my note in that field will list the date followed by “–close if no response.” If, on the other hand, the agent has instructions to follow up after a certain number of weeks, I include the date followed by “–follow up if no response.” However, I do monitor the agent’s Twitter feed/blog to see if they note that they’re behind. If so, I hold off on following up. Some agents may have a date with no instructions, if there’s no action to take but it’s just to give me an idea of when I might hear. Others might have a question mark if the agent doesn’t list an expected response time. This field is really for my own piece of mind so I already have reasonable expectations on when I should receive a response.

When I receive a Query Response, I include the date and then whether it is a form rejection, personalized form rejection, detailed rejection, or request. Or, as mentioned above, if it’s an agent who lists a specific time in which they’ll respond if interested, I close it out.

  • For the first two, I put [date] – form/personalized form rejection, then I move the entire row to a new sheet within the spreadsheet labeled rejections. There’s no need to keep rejections mixed in with active queries.
  • For a detailed rejection, I put [date] – [pasted copy of the agent’s comments]. Once again, I move the row to the rejections sheet in the spreadsheet.
  • For a query past the agent’s stated response time if interested, I put [date] – closed due to no response. Then, you guessed it, I move the row to the rejections sheet.
  • For a request (yay!), I put [date] – partial/full request; [date] – sent. If the agent replies that they received the request, I note that in parenthesis. Not all agents do, though. Then, I have more fun playing with statistics. Remember I mentioned the Agents with Similar Tastes report in QueryTracker in the last post? Well, when I receive a request, I do the following:
    1. Go to the agent’s profile and click on Reports.
    2. Under Select a Report, choose Agents with Similar Tastes (must have a premium membership).
    3. To the right, a new pull-down menu will appear. Under Select a Genre, select the genre/category for your manuscript, and then click View Report.
    4. For each agent listed in the report, make a tally mark in the Note column (third from the left). Does this mean that because these agents have requested the same manuscripts before they’ll both request yours? Not necessarily, but it doesn’t hurt to track the information. I’m still testing it out, but my theory is that if you have an agent with a lot of tallies, meaning he/she has the same taste as many other agents who have requested from you, it can only be a positive thing …

For Partial Response, I use a similar system to the above–the date followed by the type of rejection or request (probably a full at this point!). And for Full Response, again a date and the type of rejection or, dare we hope, an offer! Actually, if you get an offer, you’re probably done with the spreadsheet :). Well, maybe if you get more than one you’ll still take some notes.

Ok, that’s it, all 25 columns in my agent spreadsheet. So here are a couple of last-minute tips.

  • You’ve spent the time researching the agents, so pay attention to what they want! Don’t think you’ll be the exception to their guidelines or what they’re looking for. Don’t query more than one agent at the same agency unless they say you can, and don’t query an agent who is closed to queries.
  • I spent all this time on researching agents, but you all know you need to work on those queries and other submission materials separately, right? Right. That’s what I figured.
  • Don’t query and tell. No matter what querying strategy you choose, agents want to feel like they’re your first choice. Who doesn’t? So don’t go around tweeting or blogging about how many agents you’ve queried or how many submissions you have out. Now, if you enter an online contest, they’re going to know about it, and that’s fine. Just don’t put anything more out there than you have to. This is a time to be demure and keep your lips sealed. If you want to share with a friend, do it privately.
  • Your spreadsheet is a living document. Keep updating it whenever new information crops up about agents who interest you, whether it’s a tip they share about something they’d like to represent or a book you’ve read from their list.

I think that’s it. Any final questions?

Other posts in this series:

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