Query Prep: Researching Agents

Luckily for me, I enjoy research. I like doing a quick search and seeing if I hit anything interesting on the first try. I like going down rabbit holes. And I like pulling my discoveries together into some kind of recognizable order.

All of which is a good thing. Because, as I started getting serious about agent research this month, I remembered that it is a particularly twisty-turny rabbit hole.

It’s pretty easy to find a list of picture book agents. It’s pretty easy to find an interview or a quote that tells you a tiny bit about the agent, what they like, and if/where you might connect. It’s pretty easy to start popping their names into a spreadsheet.

And it’s pretty easy to find a reason why you won’t be querying them.

I took a bit of time to set up a spreadsheet, with a tab for research and another tab to actually track queries. I know lots of people like QueryTracker, and I may go back to it when I actually start sending out queries. But I’m not very visual, so it helps me to see all the info in one place. If you decide to use a spreadsheet, obviously, you’ll set it up for the info you want to track. But I did this a little differently than the last time I was querying, so I thought I’d highlight some of the columns that I added this time around.

  • I have two columns for Publishers Marketplace rankings. One is for the agent’s ranking, and the other is for the agency ranking. This will let me watch for newer agents who may not have a lot of sales yet, but who are working at an established agency and who may have support from the more experienced agents there. I want to sort by this column, so for any agent/agency I can’t find a PM ranking for, I’m just entering 1,000, so those rows will filter down to the bottom of the list.
  • I have a column for whether or not an agent represents picture book, and I’m making sure to separate out those agents who are looking for authors and not just author/illustrators. Because I can barely draw a stick figure!
  • I have another column for whether or the agent is currently open to queries. This column was really frustrating me. I felt like I just kept bumping up against agent after agent who are not open to querying. I knew QueryTracker information included this info for each agent, so I posted in the 12X12 Facebook group and found out that the QT info is almost always accurate and up-to-date. So I did a filtered search there and came up with a list that only includes open agents. It was a decent length and has me feeling much less discouraged.
  • I added a column for the most recent date on which I’ve added research info for each agent. I remember, last time, not doing this and finding out that I was definitely not carrying that factor around in my memory.
  • I put in one more column for my own ranking of agents on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the agents that go to the top of my query list (and get added to the tab for actual querying and tracking). 4 is for the agents I would love to query, but who aren’t open right now or aren’t taking any more picture book authors. 5 is for the agents I don’t see myself ever being a fit with; again, if I delete them, I won’t remember that I’ve already researched; this keeps them on the spreadsheet, but out of sight. 2 and 3 are kind of nebulous, more a gut feel where I think the agent falls after my #1-ranked agents.

This is really getting into the weeds, and you may be reading it and saying, “Duh!” But I remember when I was first starting to do this, years ago, I felt like there was a lot of info floating around out there, and I wasn’t sure how to best organize it, and I kept finding info that didn’t fit into my spreadsheet. I’m feeling better about this one, even though I’m sure I’ll keep modifying it as I go.

So if you’re already set, my best wishes to you for a successful query path. If you find this helpful, I’m glad to have tossed it up here!

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