14 August 2020

Making a Query Spreadsheet

I was over-zealous in sending out my first query letter; let's get more organized.

So, I was perhaps a bit over-zealous in sending out my first query. My manuscript definitely needed a bit more polish (we're taking care of that now). But more importantly, I underestimated the value in designing a schedule/strategy for querying.

With that being said, here's what I've done, and how I went about doing it, in case you find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of actually asking for representation.

First things first, we're going to use both Query Tracker and Manuscript Wish List to find all of our potential agents. If you've got another resource, you can add that in too.

Next up, open an Excel (or whatever spreadsheet program you feel like using) and make four tabs. The first tab will be for ALL AGENTS, and the other three will be colour coded for DREAM AGENT (I used purple), GOOD FITS (I used blue) and AGENTS THAT REPRESENT MY GENRE (I used orange).

A Picture of My Spreadsheet

For the ALL AGENTS tab, our title columns will be: Agent's Name, Agency, Submission URL, Submission Email, Policy on Multiple Agents, Response Time, Info of Interest.
The Name, Agency, Response Time, and Policy are self-explanatory. I populated the Submission URL field with the Agency/Agent submission guidelines, while the Email was filled with the link to their Query Manager, or the email outlined in the submission guideline. As far as Information of Interest, it's here that I placed any personal tidbits that I thought were relevant or worth noting for personalizing their query letter.

Now we get to the nitty gritty. Research. I went through every agent that MSWL and QT told me represented my genre (fantasy). Whether they were accepting submissions or not, they got added to the spread sheet. After collecting every one of them, and deciding where they fit in my colour scheme, I copied them to the relevant tabs.
For each of the coloured tabs, I removed the background colour (we're going to use colours to denote who we've queried, and who's rejected us) and added a few new column headers.

The Second Picture of My Spreadsheet

The new headers are: Date We Queried, When We Sent Them Extra Materials, When to Follow-up, When We Will Cancel the Query (if we receive an offer from someone else), and Response (redundant, as we're colour coding our spreadsheet, but it makes filtering by columns easier).

With all the information we've gathered, you're now good to start scheduling when to send your queries, and who you're going to send them to. I decided to have seven out at a time. I started with DREAM AGENTS, and as soon as I got a negative response, I sent out the next one down the list, moving from DREAM, to GOOD, to AGENTS.
Some resources I referenced recommend using an agent's response time to ensure your seven 'active' queries will be responded to at different time periods, but I prioritized the agents I wanted to represent me, and whether or not they were from the same agency.

I jumped the gun a tad with my very first query, but like everything on this journey to publication, it was a learning experience. I'm much better situated now, and I hope you can find something useful from my eagerness.
Good luck, and remember to be patient! (I'm still working on that one.)