do and don't · how to break the rules well · query problems

Getting personal

When you research how to write queries, many tell you to personalize each query. Not just with the agent’s name in the salutation, but with a personal connection.

For the record, personalizing queries is optional.

Sometimes it’s easy: you met at a workshop or conference. Maybe you even had a query appointment and the agent requested pages.

  • We met at the Writers’ League of Texas 2015 Conference and I enjoyed chatting with you about trends in the romance genre.
  • I pitched to you at the Southern California Writer’s Conference six months ago, where you requested the first five chapters. I took a lot out of your workshop on plotting, and used some of your tips when editing the manuscript.

If you know one of their clients, mention it (and know that they’ll talk to their client about you). It’s even better if one of their clients introduces you, online or in person.

Other acceptable connections:

  • I love your client Cindy Pon’s books: SERPENTINE is one of my all-time favorite reads.
  • I know you represent Thea Harrison and I feel my book is comparable to her style.
  • I read your interview on Writer’s Digest and thought you might enjoy my novel.
  • Your Twitter profile says you’re fascinated with India and Pakistan, which are the setting of my novel.

Things not to say:

  • When I saw that you represent N.K. Jemisin, I knew you would like my suspense thriller. (Jemisin writes speculative, so you obviously didn’t read her books. This happens often.)
  • I searched for “quirky literary agents” and came across your site.
  • I read in one of your interviews how you prefer English Breakfast: that’s my favorite tea too. I thought you might enjoy my cozy mystery, THE TEATIME DEATH KNELL.
  • I saw your tweets about your sick cat — I hope he gets better. I am querying you with an urban fantasy called…

Keep it on topic and professional. This is a business letter. Including off-topic personal details are creepy.

The occasional person can pull off a humorous or sardonic tone and break these rules. But it’s rare.

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