by Laura Drake
(Part 3 in a series – click here for Part 1 and Part 2)
Organizing This Mess
I’ve found two methods for keeping track of submissions. Which you choose depends on how your brain works. Some writers are “pansters,” some are “plotters.” Some people are night owls, some are morning people – it’s like that. You’ll know which method is right for you the minute you read the description, I promise.
Does the thought of using Excel make your eyes glaze over? Is your favorite method of organization a shoebox, or a closet with a door you have to lean on to close? No worries. There’s a tool for you that’s so easy and non-threatening that, although I mentioned it in Part 2 of this series, I’m going to include it here.
Any right brainers that know another good tracking method, please post in the comments – we’d love to know!
Writers Market.com – It has a huge, up-to-date database on agents. It costs $40/yr, but it’s worth every penny. I used it for my first submission experience, and it was wonderful. It’s everything you need in one place, plus things others don’t have. You search by genre, and you can narrow your search.
- % of clients that publish in fiction
- # of clients – of those how many were new authors
- If member of AAR
- Submission guidelines
- How long it takes for response.
- Agent/agency websites
- When they were established
One of the best things about it is that it has a “Query Tracker.” You select the agent you’re submitting to, note the date, and when you should hear back. After that date, you’ll get a reminder, so you can follow up.
Simple, organized, unintimidating.
For those of you who have your home library sorted by Author and Title, and could lay your hands on anything you own in the dark, read on.
My daytime title is corporate CFO. Sounds impressive, but it’s just a fancy name for “numbers geek.” As you can guess, I love Excel. It’s in my genes, I can’t help it.
So I created an Excel spreadsheet to track my submissions.
Excel For Authors –
Two key tools in one spreadsheet: WHO you want to submit to and TRACKING submissions.
When I research an agent, I give them a tier and a rank to help determine who I will submit to in what order.
- Tier A – Dream Agents
- Tier B – Solid agents
- Tier C – Maybe new agents (a good place for unpubbed authors to try, by the way), or not a perfect fit, but worth a try.
Then I pull all pertinent information from their website into the Excel spreadsheet:
- Agency name, address, phone number, email
- Submission requirements
- Pertinent info: “so & so’s agent,” or “Met at a conference”
I’ll share a copy of my sheet as an example – but please do not assume the information is correct – I’ve “dummied” a lot of it to protect the innocent!
Sheets in my file:
- Agent List: Alpha list of agents contained in the file. That way, if I hear of an agent, I have a quick reference to see if I’ve already considered them.
- “Do Not Submit” page. I may include them here even if they’re good if they don’t rep what I write. I include the reason they’re on this sheet, so I remember later why I did not choose to query that agent.
- A sheet each for A, B & C Tier agents
- Ed/Pub List: Editors/Publishers I want to submit to
- Submissions: this is always my first sheet. A colored stripe bisects the page.
- TOP – Agents I have submitted to, but haven’t heard from yet – or those with partials or full MS out for consideration.
- BOTTOM – Rejections
When you’ve exhausted all submitting avenues, heard back from every possible agent, and are still not successful in snagging representation for your book, DO NOT delete this file! It has valuable information for submitting your next novel (and there WILL be a next novel, right?). On the next round you will need to know:
- Which agents requested partials/fulls. Put them at the top of your Tier A for next time – these are people who liked your writing style.
- Other agents may move to your Do Not Submit page, if you change genres, etc.
You’ll still need to do your research! Do not assume that nothing has changed since your last submission: look up submission guidelines, email addresses, etc. Agents come and go, and change agencies frequently. Also, new agents may have gotten in the business since your last submittal, and you won’t want to miss them.
Remember that agents typically only request from 10% of the queries they receive. You are working to be in that 10%! I hope you’ve found this series of blogs helpful – please post any info/suggestions I haven’t covered “comments section.”
In the spirit of free information on the internet, I’d be happy to forward you my Excel Spreadsheet template to help you get organized. Simply send me an email at:
I wish you all a happy and successful hunt – go bag your trophy agent!
That spreadsheet is amazing! I’m a plotter when I write, and my submission tracking is less organized than your spreadsheet, but still organized. I created a form which I keep in a notebook. I hand write the relevant information when I send out manuscripts or queries. So far, it works!
The important thing is that whatever you use, it works! I always think I’m going to remember a particular agent, and their response, but since it’s a year between submissions, there’s no way!
Wow, what a great post. How to best track my submissions to both agents and publishers is something I’ve been struggling with for a while. Glad I found you. bookmarking this address. 🙂
A hugely helpful post! Thanks for the valuable ideas.
Thank-you for specific, truly helpful advice. I avoid reinventing the wheel, so I’m going to copy your Excel spreadsheet. A wonderfully generous offer. And I’m tweeting this as well.
So glad you found it helpful, Dawn. I’d hate to think all my mistakes only went to benefit me!