I have a confession to make: I LOVE spreadsheets. There's just something about those clean black lines, all those highlight and font colors, and those cells waiting to be filled that appeals to my overly type A heart.
Spreadsheets organize, they keep things tidy, and best of all, they do the math for you. They tally things, and do basic arithmetic, and mash numbers together to make new pretty numbers, and you don't even have to break a sweat. I mean, this is brilliant for someone who still needs a calculator when adding double-digit numbers. And by "someone," I mean my, uh, friend. Of course I can add things in my head. *awkward silence*
When I was a senior in college, I started the job hunt super early. I never really worked during school, aside from a stint at a department store one summer (where I met one of my very best friends and that was the only good thing that came of it) and a couple Christmases at a teddy bear factory, trying to sell overpriced stuffed animals and field phone calls from weirdos. This lack of experience meant that I lacked references, so as soon as senior year began, I scrambled to find professors and doctors/nurses I'd shadowed on the pediatric ward who would say supportive things about me.
As soon as I had my references in place, I began firing off job applications every which way. I sent five new ones each day. Some of them asked for a resume, while others requested that I fill out an online form. I started getting emails from some people and phone calls from others. Before long, everything started getting jumbled in my head: where I had applied, what materials I had submitted, who had called me, whose emails I had responded to and whose I hadn't, etc.
And then, of course, three weeks into my new job after graduation, I got the following phone call: "Hi, yes, is this Julie? I'm (insert name here) from (insert company here) and I'm calling to see if you're still interested in the position."
And, because I had ABSOLUTELY NO MEMORY WHATSOEVER of ever applying to this place, I gave my very educated response of: "I'm sorry?"
There have been other job hunts since that one, each smoother and more organized than the last because I finally started making a spreadsheet. Every time I applied somewhere, I wrote down the name of the company/institution, the date I had applied, what materials I had submitted, and who to contact. And when someone got back to me, I filled in their name, contact information, and every date on which we interacted. And it helped SO much.
It's no surprise that when I started querying, I used the same technique. I have six major headings:
- AGENT NAME: This is always big and bold so I can see it easily.
- AGENT SITE: I like having their specific page on their agency website right at my fingertips. It saves me time looking them up on Google again. Sometimes I also save links to their important interviews.
- DATE: I have a column of dates on which the agent and I had an...
- INTERACTION: I write what type of interaction. "I sent my query and 10 pages," or "She requested the first 50 pages," or "Form rejection," or "Personalized rejection." If it's that last one, I write a very short description of what they suggested.
- WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR: I don't want to be confused if ever an agent contacts me and I don't ever want to be thinking, "Wait, why did I query her again?" I copy and paste info from their websites, interviews, and MSWL tweets here so I know how I personalized the query and why I submitted to them.
- HOW I KNOW THEM: Did I see them on the MSWL hashtag? Did a friend refer them to me, and which friend was it? Do they rep an author I admire? etc.
If they request materials from me, I put a little flag underneath. If it's a full, it's bright green. If it's a partial, it's dark green. If it's a rejection, I gray out the whole entry. At one glance, I can see approximately how many fulls, partials, and rejections I have at any one time. This is also where those magical spreadsheet elves get to work for me and calculate percentages and all that good stuff. It's super helpful.
Note to self: One column I might add in the future is AGENCY POLICY, so I can see at a glance whether it's okay to query somebody else at that agency should things fall through. Does "no" from one mean "no" from all? Do they pass manuscripts around? And so on and so forth.
I know some of you out there are new to querying and have asked me for tips on staying organized, and I hope that this helps you somewhat! What works for me may not work for you, so tailor it to your needs. But I highly recommend keeping a spreadsheet, because I've gotten query responses up to seven months after submitting. It helps to be able to go back and refresh my memory. It's also nice when you have many queries out at once and need to make sure you don't query two people at the same agency, or the same agent twice, etc.
So there you are! Querying friends: do you have any other tips to add for those who are new to this? How do you stay organized when you're submitting?