©2020 by Sarah Penner 

Photo credits - Alison Moore Photography

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QueryTracker: Tips & Tricks

Querying writers, listen up! I firmly believe that your #amquerying toolkit needs to contain three things:

  • A full submission package "at the ready," including a rock-solid query letter and 2-page synopsis (agents will ask for this!);

  • A running list of agents you hope to query, including agency, submission instructions, #mswl, etc; and

  • Bookmarked in your web browser: QueryTracker.net!

Okay, so what is QueryTracker? QT is a web-based database where thousands of users track and report their query-related data. It's basically crowdsourcing query-related data, for the benefit of all querying authors. Want to know which agents have offered rep on women's fiction in June? Check the report in QT. Want to know how many others queried agent X last week? Check the agent's dashboard in QT. Want to see how many outstanding queries you have? Check your query list in QT.

 

To be clear: I was not asked to endorse QueryTracker, nor are they paying me to do so. I'm sharing this tool — used by thousands of authors in the pre-agent phase — because it's been enormously helpful in finding an agent; understanding response times and form letters; and tracking query submissions.

Let's get started.

The Basics: "My Query List"

The page titled "My Query List" is a summary of the agents you've queried and the age of these queries, with one-click icons to access additional features. Think of it as your personal dashboard for monitoring the status of things. Below, I've included a screenshot of this view on the QueryTracker site. A few things to note:

  1. Query Status, at the top left, is a quick & dirty way to view where each query stands (rejected, outstanding, submission requested, etc.)

  2. The little "chat bubbles" toward the center represent comments left by other QT users for each agent. Click on this bubble, and you'll find a wealth of information. In the comments, users provide agent responses like form letters and out-of-office emails; what they've heard about the agent from other authors; etc.

  3. Don't miss the filtering tool to the far right! I sent my second manuscript to only sixteen agents, so keeping track of the data was fairly easy. But if you're querying more than this, the filter feature comes in handy (especially if you want to view, for example, outstanding queries or rejections.)

Agent Dashboards & Data Explorer

Each literary agent has their own page within QueryTracker. This includes contact information and submission instructions; links to pertinent information, like the agent's manuscript wishlist (MSWL); success story interviews; and helpful data, like the reply rate. Check out the screenshot below, and here's some additional detail:

  1. As I mentioned above, Comments submitted by users often come in handy. Don't miss this feature!

  2. Data Explorer resembles a spreadsheet (see second screenshot below) and includes the genre, wordcount, query date, reply date, etc. 

  3. Timeline is a visual representation of the Data Explorer. The most helpful feature of Timeline is that you can sort for Full Submission Requests in order to see how long users have been waiting to hear back on their full request (this helps set expectations: if most users wait 60+ days to hear back on their full manuscripts, then obvi you need to relax if you haven't heard back after two weeks.)

  4. Manuscript Wishlist (#mswl): if you haven't heard of this yet, you're missing out! This is where agents proactively post the types of stories they're seeking. This can be a genre, sub-genre, a trope (e.g. love triangle), or something as simple as, "I want THE SHINING x STEPFORD WIVES." Check #mswl on Twitter, too!

  5. Success Story Interviews: many QT users report their successes on the site and answer a series of questions that other users may find informative (for example, how many times they revised their MS.) Some users even post the query letter that (successfully) snagged the agent.  

  6. Other Projects: since QT allows you to track more than one project/manuscript, you can see here that I also used the system to track queries on my first book, KEPT. 

Okay, let's dig a bit more into the Data Explorer (#2 above.) The Data Explorer is a great way to see who else is querying the same agents and whether they've heard back. But, this has its pros and cons!

 

Pros: if you're wondering why the agent hasn't replied to you in two weeks, you can check the Data Explorer to see if other users have heard back. Perhaps the agent is on vacation or slammed with queries

Cons: this data analysis may be discouraging. If everyone else has heard back and you haven't, this may leave you wondering if your query got lost in the shuffle (or if your query just fell flat and the agent is totally uninterested.)

You can also filter this view. For example, you may filter "Full Requests" to see which genre the agent most commonly requests. You may also get a feel for the response time associated with "Full Requests" vs. "Rejected." 

Premium Reports

We've covered the Query List and Agent Dashboards, but QueryTracker also provides premium reports that allow you to view consolidated data across all users. For example, below I've included a screenshot of the "Offers of Representation" report. This shows which agents have recently offered representation.

Yours truly is on the fourth row!

A number of other premium report features exist on the QT site, including:

  • New & Updated Agents: many #amquerying authors choose to target new agents, as they're often seeking new clients and trying to build their list. This report is an easy way to see who's new & eager on the market.

  • Who Reps Whom: if you have an author in mind (perhaps similar genre or style to your own) and want to know their agent, this search tool will return results quickly.

  • Success Story Interviews: I touched on this briefly above, but this premium report feature allows you to see all success stories across all agents (and these stories include valuable tips about querying!)

Premium Membership

Most of the features noted above are available only as part of QueryTracker's premium membership, which is $25/year. In my opinion, this small investment is worth every penny!

Final Thoughts...

A few tidbits to wrap this up.

First of all, remember that the data on QueryTracker is not perfect!!! Some users forget to post their updates, and the data on QT only represents a portion of all querying writers. It's meant to be one data point to assist you in strategizing and tracking your own query/submission process. Don't lose yourself in the data or waste hours analyzing outdated query history: it's just not worth your time. (What is worth your time? Polishing that manuscript and seeking feedback on your query letter!)

Second, remember that an agent's submission instructions and website always trump the QueryTracker site. Always, always, always check an agent's submission instructions online before querying; do not rely on accurate submission instructions on QT. I also recommend checking out an agent's MSWL and Twitter page before querying. You may find relevant information to work into your query.

 

BEST OF LUCK to you, fellow writers! Don't hesitate to reach out anytime with questions. And please subscribe to my site so you can stay up-to-date on future Features and announcements!