Friday Speak Out!: Four Ways Authors Can Get the Most from QueryTracker

Friday, March 02, 2018
by K. Alan Leitch

While I'm sure that everyone knows about, a great tool for seeking out and querying agents, you may or may not have lived with it as intimately as I have recently. Working to promote my novel while an online feature is still current, QueryTracker and I have eaten together, listened to music together, and even once cuddled when I fell asleep in its glow. You can't have intimacy like that without learning a website’s strengths and its quirks. Here is what I have learned.

Tip 1: Always check the agent's website.

It's tempting to just query straight from the information in QueryTracker, but visiting their link is essential. It might seem obvious that you should check their submission guidelines, but be on the lookout also for:
• Other agents who may suit your query better, but who may not list on QueryTracker.;
• Personal preferences from your agent's bio that you use to word your letter; and,
• Whether or not your agent still really wants to represent your genre. They often change     their minds after listing.
Tip 2: Enable reminders.

I wish I'd learned this one much earlier. Beside each agent's name is a little "bell" symbol, like the one pictured. Once you learn how long they take to respond, and whether the agency allows you to re-query other agents after that, you can set a reminder to "ring" after the eight- or twelve- or sixteen-week mark. That will tell you when it's time to get your revised query off to another agent.

Tip 3: Check the comments first.

Near the bell, some agents have a yellow "word balloon" that you can click. This means that other authors have left comments about them: whether they are nice or nasty, quick or quicksand, but most importantly whether they tend to give feedback. For an author, even a few words of feedback from agents is a Holy Grail when querying, so if you can query them first, their comments might help you to improve your letter—maybe even your book—for later.

Tip 4: Filter the agent by both genre and subgenre.

Pictured here is a drop-list of genres that will filter your lists to only the agents who represent that genre. What I didn't realize immediately is that I can copy the agent's name into the "search" box, then change the genre to my subgenre. For example, I might:
1. Put "Jane Smith" in the search, so only her name will be on the list.
2. Change the genre from "Young Adult" to "Mystery."
3. If Jane Smith's name still appears, then she is likely to represent Young Adult Mysteries.
There is a more "premium" paid membership from QueryTracker, so if you are not as chintzy as I am, some of these tricks might get easier. What I've learned from my special relationship with QueryTracker, though, is that even the basic edition can earn our praise. Really, it's something of a godsend.

* * *
Author of YA, Mysteries and Funny Thrillers, K. Alan Leitch sees words everywhere. His novel awards include Textnovel, Serena McDonald Kennedy, The Write Launch and Book Pipeline. Through short fiction, he's loved soap operas with Writer Advice; lived loudly in Gathering Storm Magazine; written in seven different voices for Women on Writing; and protected other worlds in Stringybark Stories. His novella is set to be published this June, and his YA Mystery, Too Much Information, is a semi-finalist in the Book Pipeline Competition for media development. See more scribblings on his blog, Words from K. Alan. 'Gram, Tweet or Tumble him @KAlanAuthor. 
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Angela Mackintosh said...

This is super helpful, Keith! I haven't used Query Tracker, but I'll refer to your post when I do. I like that authors can comment, and the filtering option sounds like it would make things easier. Thanks for the tips! You look like you're having too much fun in that pic. ;)

KAlan said...

There was no room in the picture for the rainbow cupcake a student had baked me.

Renee Roberson said...

Thanks, Keith! I'm planning on digging into the submission world this year finally and these tips are super helpful.I love the reminder feature--I am so bad at follow ups!

Sheila Good said...

I can always count on you, Keith to provide valuable information. I haven't used Query Tracker for a long time, but your article made me want to revisit. Thanks

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