I thought I'd share a method I've been using to keep track of agents and submissions.
I first started getting serious (i.e. writing chapters instead of notes) on my current work in January of this year. Now, I know that I'm not good at keep records straight, but I also know that when I'd get to the point where querying got serious, I'd need more than the standard submissions guidelines.
I subscribe to a lot of publishing blogs and websites, and I read them using my Google Reader. Whenever I got to an article where someone interviewed an agent I had my eye on, I'd just "star" it. Starring an article keeps it in a special file in the Google Reader--easily accessible, but not in the way.
Since January, I've amassed close to a hundred articles. Not all of them are specifically agent related--quite a few were writing tips, general information, etc.
But when it got time for me to query, I turned to my starred folder first. Scrolling through those posts gave me a quick starting point. I was able to scan them, find the information quickly, and use those interviews and "looking for" posts to rank agents. I also noticed patterns. I'd starred five different articles on one agent. I never would have noticed it before--in fact, it was an agent I had not heard much of, depsite the fact she's at a reputable agency. However, by going through the articles I've been amassing for nearly 8 months, and seeing five about her, made me quickly move this agent to the top of my list of agents to query.
In addition to using the articles to rank agents by who I most want to query and who is most actively looking for what I've got to offer, I was also able to pick up some great details that I plan on using in my query. This is going to make personalization so so SO much simpler. Pull quotes from interviews where the agent specifically stated a book she represented or an idea he'd like to see in print will really help my query stand out from the pack.
Is this the best way to do it? All I can say is, it was incredibly simple for me to just star articles in my reader that mentioned agents and what they wanted/repped. I know I wouldn't have kept track of it if it weren't so simple--in the past, I'd just scour the internet once I was ready to query, not keep vague track of info before querying. It took me a solid two or so hours to skim through all the starred articles I had to pick out the ones best suited for my work, but now, at the end of it, I've got a list of over 40 agents, with specific links to what they want, and a clear idea of who I think would be best for my work. This is something that would have taken me several days, not several hours, in the past.
Not bad for taking a few seconds out of my blog reading days to click on that little star beside the article.
So, how do you keep track of agents you want to query?