Having received my first rejection for Journal of the Dead on a submission to a publisher, I'm now going the query route. In the past, while I've had a list of agents I definitely wanted to submit to, my research beyond that has been a bit scattershot. I decided to go into this time with a Battleplan (tm), and despite the headaches of the past few days (both literal - oww, allergy season! - and figurative - flooding under the garage steps has had me changing towels every few hours), I've come up with a system and information I'm happy with.
First, I set up an Excel spreadsheet with columns for agency name, agent, genres represented, method of contact, submission package desired, other notes, and then a personal ranking. (Actually, the ranking is the first item - on the far left hand side.) Then, I went back through the agencies I submitted to last time and reviewed their sites, adding this information into my sheet. I removed a few agencies from the list, mostly due to inaccurate information - the agent had left, no longer taking fantasy, etc.
Next step, I went trawling the net for other agencies. As a point of interest, I usually avoided agents that didn't have an obvious net presence. This isn't laziness (that's my story and I'm sticking with it - no, really), but more that I feel in this day and age, having that internet platform is important. I'm not terribly good at it myself, but I have a website, a blog and a facebook page. (Actually, I have three facebook pages - personal, author and harper. Oh, the travails of multi-tasking.) Anyone who has less presence than I do makes me leery.
(As a sidebar, I've already found Facebook's character limit on updates annoying, so I will not be joining Twitter. 140 characters? It takes me more than that to say hello!)
Originally, I had added a column for whether or not the agent accepted simsubs, but discovered that only one or two even wanted to be notified, so I moved that info into my notes and deleted the column. One thing I should have included and didn't was whether the agent sent rejections (or whether no reply was considered a rejection) and length of response time. I added a column for that and will add this information in as I make submissions. I also added a color code and a column for JoD to track the kind of responses I get. Why color and not words? I like color. It's also easier to get a quick picture.
Even though I have the summary, I'm still going to consult websites as I submit. Want to make sure I address more specific needs that I can't put in a simple spreadsheet. Still, it will speed me up. The best thing about the sheet thus far is one horizontal line fits perfectly on my widescreen monitor, with room to make notes for 4-5 projects. (I sincerely, sincerely hope I won't need those extra lines, because if I don't have an agent by then I may stab myself, shoot myself and hurl myself off a bridge while drinking poison ... but there it is.)
I decided from the start I wasn't going to do the typical method of submitting to a rash of places at once - but neither was I going to be dumb and simply submit to two or three at a time, because that takes forever. (There was a time I didn't know this. We do not speak of this time.) So the plan was to submit to perhaps five or six to start, and then every time I receive a no response, send out two more. This keeps momentum going and means I'm doing it in small, manageable chunks - critical, with the number of other balls I'm juggling in my life. Obviously, I will reach a point of overwhelming mass, at which point I'll just do a 1:1.
As it so happens, my rank 1 (highest priority) list has seven agencies on it - one of which is currently closed to queries, but I know from prior experience that they close and reopen regularly. Six is a perfect number to start with, and I'm hoping to get the email letters out today. Whether the snail mail letter gets out tomorrow depends on if I have enough postage in-house. Tomorrow and Tuesday are insane days, so it will be Wednesday before I can get to the post office ...