Your End of the Slush: Organizing Your Query Workflow

Querying

Querying can be hard work. I don’t want to imagine how stuffed with queries a popular agent’s inbox might be. But your outbox can be just as full of sent queries. Keeping track of who you’ve queried and what has been requested and sent can be a full time job. This doesn’t leave you much time to concentrate on the task of writing your next novel. 

However, there are some simple ways to keep track of your querying system and make sure you have a simple query workflow that maximizes your requests with minimal effort. For example, you may want to follow these tips.

Use Query Tracker 

Query Tracker is a website designed to help authors find agents. When it comes to tracking queries, this system is top notch. The website has information for over a thousand agents and agencies in its system. It allows you to add agents to a query list, mark when and how you queried them, and mark when you receive responses from agents. It also has tons of statistics from other users that can help you figure out when to expect a reply (or whether to expect replies at all) from certain agents.

The free version of query tracker is great and should be enough to keep most authors organized. But if you have multiple manuscripts or want more detailed statistics, pay the twenty dollars for a yearly description and you won’t be disappointed. 

Keep a Spreadsheet

Unfortunately, there may be some agents you want to query who are not listed on Query Tracker. Make a spreadsheet to keep track of the date and method of query for any unlisted agents. 

Have a Plan

Before you send out your first query, I suggest you have a plan in place. You should have a complete list of agents you plan to query for your project. One mistake I made when querying my first project was starting to send out queries too soon. Wait until your list is complete and you will have a lot less anxiety over who to query and when you should be sending out queries.

For my plan, I like to send out queries to 5-7 agents, biweekly. I usually choose some rockstar agents and mix them with a few newer or less popular agents. I also try to mix up the response times, having at least 3-4 agents who tend to queries within two weeks. 

A detailed plan will allow you to tweak your query each time you send it out, until you start receiving requests for fulls. Once the requests start piling up, you know you have a solid query and you can send it out to the rest of your list. 

This is my plan, and so far it keeps me sane and organized. Your plan may be different. Perhaps you send out 10-15 queries each week. You do what works for you, as long as you plan it out ahead of time. 

Label Your Outgoing Messages

Some people will say you should create a professional email account specifically for querying. I don’t think this is necessary. But it is necessary to be able to find your queries and responses in your email. 

This can be done a couple of ways. First, you may want to label your outgoing messages with “query.”  You can even label them with the specific query letter you are using, such as “Query 1” and “Query 2.”

Alternatively, if you make sure you always put the word Query and title of the project in the subject line, you can easily search for your queries using your email client’s search function. This is a good practice anyway, since most agents have their email set up to rescue emails with the word “query” from their spam filters.

Keep Your Query Materials Up To Date

If you’re anything like me, by the time you “finish” a project, you have twenty documents sporting some variation of the title saved in various places on your computer and online. I’m not saying you have to get rid of all of those, but I like to create a single folder called “Query Materials” where I keep only the absolute latest versions of my manuscript, query letter, and synopsis.

In this folder I also might save a three chapter or fifty page split of my manuscript, if an agent asks for it as an attachment, so I won’t have to do the split again ig another agent requests it. 

Having all of your latest materials available in one folder ensures you won’t accidentally send the wrong version of your manuscript. It also gives you an easy way to backup your query materials.

You may also be interested in how I use gmail templates to save common splits of my manuscript and speed up my querying time.

Query One Project At a Time 

I am terrible at following this piece of advice. While I don’t actively query two projects at once, I will enter a second complete project in pitch contests when I am actively querying my main project. This leads to a mess. I don’t really recommend it at all, and in the future I plan to fully query one project before announcing my second project to the world. 

These are my tips for managing the author side of the slush. What are your tips? Do you have an awesome way you keep your query list maintained and easy to follow? I’d love to hear about it. 

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