Recently we’ve had a few discussions in the Facebook support group about how to track queries. Should you use QueryTracker? Or a spreadsheet? Or perhaps good old fashioned pencil and paper is the right choice.
There’s really no right answer. It all comes down to what works best for you. To help you decide, here’s an overview of common tracking systems and some pros and cons for each.
QueryTracker (free version): QueryTracker offers a free version and a premium version for an annual fee of $25. For the purposes of this post, I reviewed the free version. QueryTracker allows you to generate lists of agents by genre; research them through links provided on the website (to MSWL, Twitter, agency website, etc.); and add them to your query list with a simple click. Once you’ve queried, you enter your query method (form, email, snail mail) and date from a pop up menu. Then you can sort queries by query age (in days), agent, and agency. You also can sort by agents you’ve added as your “top choices.” Icons help you easily keep track of your rejections and requests for additional material.
- QueryTracker is very simple to use and requires zero knowledge of Excel or other spreadsheet programs, which can be intimidating for some folks.
- The query age feature lets you see at a glance how long your queries have been outstanding so you can nudge if necessary.
- All your information is online, so you don’t have to worry about a crashing computer wiping out your data. Plus you can print out your query list at any time for hard copy backup.
- QueryTracker also easily lets you check your query stats (for example, percentage of rejections vs. acceptances vs. queries still out) and compare it to other users.
- The free version only allows you to query one project at a time. This is fine for most novelists, but can be a drawback for many picture book writers who may query multiple projects simultaneously.
- There is no way to add agents to your list who aren’t in the QueryTracker database. If you find an agent not on QueryTracker, you must contact QueryTracker to see if they can be included.
- If you’re a control freak (like me) the free version gives you limited ability to sort and prioritize your agents (though you can do this with Premium). And you can’t export the data. (Again, you need Premium).
- There’s no way to sort rejections to the bottom of your spreadsheet or even move them to a separate file. If your agent list is big (and it should be), this can get cumbersome.
Spreadsheet (Excel or another program): The perfect tool for control freaks who want to customize their query process to their heart’s content. You can query unlimited projects simultaneously, add any agent you choose, and prioritize agents for query rounds. Then you can sort queries numerous ways (agent priority, query age, manuscript, agency). If you want to simulate the QueryTracker experience, you can add links to submission guidelines, Twitter handles, and MSWL right into your spreadsheet.
- Unlimited ability to customize. Perfect for multiple projects and people who want to prioritize their query rounds without paying the costs of QueryTracker Premium.
- See query age (in weeks) right next to the agent’s stated response time, so you can easily see when to nudge. You can even color code your records (yellow when you are waiting, red for rejections, green for queries that get requested material).
- Ability to move rejections to a separate sheet to keep worksheets less cluttered.
- You need a working knowledge of Excel (or other spreadsheet programs), including the sort function. This tutorial provides a helpful overview. The key is to make sure your records stay together. If you don’t, your spreadsheet will be a hot mess.
- Spreadsheets with multiple rows and columns can be cumbersome to read, especially as you query more and more agents. There are workarounds, including breaking up your spreadsheet into multiple worksheets for current and past queries.
- In order to track your stats, you need a working knowledge of Excel functions.
If an Excel spreadsheet sounds appealing but too difficult to create, feel free to use my template Sample Query Spreadsheet. (Note: Query age updates automatically based upon the query date you enter. Use six digit dates, for example 01/01/2018.)
If you are a more visual person and you prefer a pen and paper method, check out Katy Howes’s notecard query system.
It really doesn’t matter what method you choose, as long as you carefully track your queries. So get out there and start submitting!