Friday, August 28, 2009

Organizing Submissions

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?


Jennifer Shirk said...

Well, I'm not querying at the moment, but I would probably use

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Beth, I am in awe of your organizational, plus innovative, skill. I'd say your foot is going to be firmly in the door with this kind of prep.
I'm not currently sending queries (still rewriting) but you've given me something to think about.

lotusgirl said...

That's a great idea. I hadn't thought to do that. I would have just used something like agentquery or querytracker. Now I'm going to have to look at doing this too.

PJ Hoover said...

You certainly do the research which is a huge thing! Good luck!

Lynnette Labelle said...

I'll go to and read all about 'em.

Lynnette Labelle

Mim said...

I just started doing querytracker, but not every agent I want to query is on there. At least I don't think so.

Before I started doing that I bookmarked each of the agent's sites and put it in my agents folder in my bookmark bar. This gives me a starting point. But I've not gotten totally serious about querying yet. Just finding and putting interesting agents in there.

Windy said...

I like, though I also use an offline spreadsheet to track things like what an agent's specific submission guidelines are, etc, so I can pull things together without having to go online.

I like that querytracker also provides links to Publishers Marketplace and Agentquery.

Elana Johnson said...

This is fantastic information. I'm going to email you. :)

Anna C. Morrison said...

I am seriously impressed. So simple! A star! I'm going to steal this idea, so I hope you don't mind. Wow. Good luck to you!!!

Unknown said...! It is full of awesomely goodness. Check it out!

Miriam Forster said...

Mostly I just bookmark them, but I like your idea much better!

Empress Awesome said...

I give them the little golden star too, 1) because they're pretty, 2) because they're too much fun, and 3) because my memory sucks and I'll forget. And then I go through them one at a time (my top choice first) and try to meet their requirements. But I've given up on queries for a while, I can't deal with that stuff during school. I'm a senior, I need to make a good impression, or no decent person will talk to me (or hire me for that matter)

Christina Farley said...

Wow. I'm impressed. I need to hire you! I'm boring. I just have like 5 million sticky notes and a list of my top agents hanging on my wall that I keep my eye on.

Then when I'm querying, I keep a written ledger. Very old fashioned I guess!

Unknown said... really is a great resource--but I also quite like Query Tracker.

Thanks for sharing ideas, everyone! Glad I was able to give some of you some new ideas :)

Robyn Campbell said...

Dang it, you're organized! Uh, I just have a list that I started from querytracker and agentquery.

I do keep track of dates, and what personal little tidbits I added to each one. Stuff like that.

But I think we'll discuss this at our next meeting. :)

Angela Ackerman said...

querytracker was so helpful to me in my agent search. It was so easy to change the status of my submissions to show what stage the sub was at and who had what and for how long. It's an excellent tool. :-)

Unknown said...

I was just discussing this with my crit group this morning. I start with a similar system, but instead of starring in Google Reader, I add an "Agent" tag to the post.

Then, I add it to a spreadsheet with notes about what I liked about the agent, what stood out about them in the interview or article, why I think they might be a good match.

I'm not querying yet, but I hope that this will be one of those "stitch in time" projects.

Clementine said...

Beth, I love this!!!! What a great tool! Can you explain to me how Google Reader works? Because I just use the Dashboard in blogger to scroll through blogs that I subsribe to. It's tedious and time consuming and I still feel like I'm missing some great stuff. How did you stumble upon these articles? I needed this post. I'm having a hard time choosing which agents to submit to.

Terri Tiffany said...

I just started to queery and all I've done is save them to a file in my mail. Haven't figured out even the best way to search for them. Loved your thoughts!