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iwannabepublished
05-08-2010, 04:36 AM
I have read that opening a query with something personal regarding the agent is a good idea. Is it?

I always make an effort, of course, to check what an agent is looking for. Is it enough just to say that, for example, "I see that one area of interest you have is action/adventure, the genre of my manuscript. I also noted that you welcome new, unpublished authors." Or words to that effect?

Is it a good idea to check the list (if there is one) of books the agent has represented and mention mine is like (insert title and/or author)?

Last, if I read that an agent has an interest in strong female characters, should I mention that my main character is a 'female Indian Jones'?

Any help is this area will be most welcome.

DeadlyAccurate
05-08-2010, 07:21 AM
I have read that opening a query with something personal regarding the agent is a good idea. Is it?

Only if you actually have something.


I always make an effort, of course, to check what an agent is looking for. Is it enough just to say that, for example, "I see that one area of interest you have is action/adventure, the genre of my manuscript.

Don't say this. That's telling them something they already know. That would be like them responding with, "I notice you'd like to be published."


I also noted that you welcome new, unpublished authors." Or words to that effect?

Don't say this either. It's also telling them something they already know.


Is it a good idea to check the list (if there is one) of books the agent has represented and mention mine is like (insert title and/or author)?

Only if you've actually read the books.


Last, if I read that an agent has an interest in strong female characters, should I mention that my main character is a 'female Indian Jones'?

That one's not so bad, though it would be better to show it in the pitch than to tell it.

I highly recommend girding your loins and posting your query in Query Letter Hell and letting the brilliant minds there have a go at it. (And read some of the other queries there and the critiques that have gone with them). That will probably help you get on the right track more than anything.

heyjude
05-08-2010, 02:30 PM
I have read that opening a query with something personal regarding the agent is a good idea. Is it?

Yes. This is how I caught my agent's eye.

Danthia
05-08-2010, 04:24 PM
If you can say something that doesn't feel like you Goggled them just to find something to say, add it. If not, don't sweat it. "I read that you like..." type statements show you did a little research and aren't querying willy nilly, but I have heard some agents say those types of personalization aren't really "personal" and they skim them. Agents will vary on this.

In the end it's the hook that will sell the book or not. The best personalized opener in the world isn't going to work if the hook sounds like a horrible book. And a great hook will overcome a impersonal opener.

Jamesaritchie
05-08-2010, 07:49 PM
I believe personalizing queries is an excellent idea, but this does not mean stating the obvious. It simply means letting the agent know that you did your research, and that the same query with the same wording isn't being sent to twenty other agents.

Miss Plum
05-08-2010, 08:03 PM
For what it's worth, Miss Snark, or maybe Janet Reid herself in an interview, says Don't Personalize. Sorry, I can't find the quote, but she says the important thing is that you're here now and she doesn't care about anything else.

And then she says that not every agent agrees with that.

Jamesaritchie
05-08-2010, 09:31 PM
For what it's worth, Miss Snark, or maybe Janet Reid herself in an interview, says Don't Personalize. Sorry, I can't find the quote, but she says the important thing is that you're here now and she doesn't care about anything else.

And then she says that not every agent agrees with that.

I've yet to talk to an agent who doesn't like personalized queries, if they're done right. Or an agent who doesn't usually discard any query that reads like it was sent to fifty other agents at the same time.

I think the problem is that most wirters don't understand what "personalize" really means, and all agents hate queries that read like a suck up, or that state the obvious, etc.

scope
05-08-2010, 11:21 PM
I have read that opening a query with something personal regarding the agent is a good idea. Is it?

>>I imagine there are differences of opinion regarding this. Generally, I don't see the value of using space to put in something that's obvious. Yes, if you can find an unusual little gem go ahead and use it (it can't hurt - I don't think).

Is it a good idea to check the list (if there is one) of books the agent has represented and mention mine is like (insert title and/or author)?

>>I just don't see the value of this, although once again I'm sure some here will. As far as I concerned, by doing so you set yourself up for comparison to a book or author the agent may be very fond of. The agent is well aware of everything she's done, and if your work rings a tone she's fond of, regardless why, you will hear from her.

Last, if I read that an agent has an interest in strong female characters, should I mention that my main character is a 'female Indian Jones'?

>>I would only use those words it they were applicable to the story. Otherwise, convey the fact that your female character is strong in some other manner.


ss

priceless1
05-09-2010, 07:13 PM
Deadly and James have excellent advice, as usual. There's another type of personalization as well. If, for instance, you're querying a niche editor or agent, it's a wise to tailor your pitch so that those specialized elements stand out. It makes it easier for us to determine whether your work is a fit or not.

justAnotherWriter
05-09-2010, 08:26 PM
When deciding whether or not to personalize, you have consider that the more you add to a query, the more there is to mess up.

What if your idea of personalization jars some agent the wrong way before they ever get to your pitch?

Before I found an agent, I used the "carpet bombing" method of querying, meaning I sent queries to dozens of agents at a time. My work is a bit off the beaten path, so it was difficult to know which agents would like it and which wouldn't, hence the carpet bombing. I tracked my results on spreadsheets and calculated success rates for my queries both before and after I stopped all attempts at personalization.

The difference in success rate? None.

How many agents will stop reading a query because it's not personalized? How many will love the pitch but decide to not ask for a partial/full because you dared send an impersonal query? And, most importantly, do you really want to work with such a person? If they are so arrogant and ridiculous that they would reject a wonderful pitch because you don't know what color underwear they wear on Tuesdays, then you're better off with a different agent anyway.

Jamesaritchie
05-09-2010, 10:13 PM
When deciding whether or not to personalize, you have consider that the more you add to a query, the more there is to mess up.

What if your idea of personalization jars some agent the wrong way before they ever get to your pitch?

Before I found an agent, I used the "carpet bombing" method of querying, meaning I sent queries to dozens of agents at a time. My work is a bit off the beaten path, so it was difficult to know which agents would like it and which wouldn't, hence the carpet bombing. I tracked my results on spreadsheets and calculated success rates for my queries both before and after I stopped all attempts at personalization.

The difference in success rate? None.

How many agents will stop reading a query because it's not personalized? How many will love the pitch but decide to not ask for a partial/full because you dared send an impersonal query? And, most importantly, do you really want to work with such a person? If they are so arrogant and ridiculous that they would reject a wonderful pitch because you don't know what color underwear they wear on Tuesdays, then you're better off with a different agent anyway.

You were personalizing wrong. And many, many, many agents will automatically reject a query that reads like fifty other agents are reading it at the same time.

It's pretty simple. No agent ever rejects a query that catches her interest, and that smells like money. If you're getting a high percentage of agents saying no, you're always doing something seriously wrong.

justAnotherWriter
05-09-2010, 10:38 PM
You were personalizing wrong. And many, many, many agents will automatically reject a query that reads like fifty other agents are reading it at the same time.


James, in a recent topic you said you only sent one query to an agent many, many years ago. So with all due respect, where is your querying wisdom coming from?

Published authors sending queries to publishers is an entirely different ballgame.



It's pretty simple. No agent ever rejects a query that catches her interest, and that smells like money. If you're getting a high percentage of agents saying no, you're always doing something seriously wrong.

Different people (and agents are people) like different things. I like many of the pitches fellow writers show me, but would never read those books, because I'm not into that genre or that style, or whatever. Agents are like this too...they can think a pitch is great but have no personal interest in it. If your query and your pitch are solid, you will often get rejected because your story is not of the type that a particular agent is interested in. There is no way around this.

It's important that writers understand that a 9 out of 10 rejection rate is normal, and actually quite good, and that they are not being rejected because their query sucks (if you're getting 1 out of 10 or even 1 out of 15 partial/full requests your query deffinitely does NOT suck), but just because not every agent wants to work with every book. Remember, they have to read it several times (once to see if the like it, again to do the redline, etc.), and if it doesn't click with them, no matter how good it is, it would be very difficult for them to work with it.

illiterwrite
05-10-2010, 03:16 AM
You were personalizing wrong. And many, many, many agents will automatically reject a query that reads like fifty other agents are reading it at the same time.


Unless, of course, the query is interesting and the writing stellar.

RainbowDragon
05-10-2010, 08:19 AM
I have spent hours on personalizing queries for certain agents. The full requests came from queries without any personalization whatsoever.

Go figure. . .I'm not saying don't do it; I'm just saying I'm not convinced that it matters.

:)

Twizzle
05-10-2010, 03:56 PM
And many, many, many agents will automatically reject a query that reads like fifty other agents are reading it at the same time.



By this, I'm going to assume you mean generic as in nonpersonalized queries, and not just poorly written. Unless your cc field reads the names of 50 other agents (and if it does, you deserve the auto reject), I'm guessing this is the only way you could describe such a query as the above.

Considering many, many, many writers don't personalize and do widely query, most agents not only expect writers are widely querying, but some even encourage it, and you're not "many, many, many agents" with the personal exp and knowledge of this, I'm not sure how you know the above is true or why the above practice would even make sense for an agent. Esp if it's one kickass query.

Personalizing can be a bonus. It can be a very smart move, if done right. But it's not going to earn you an auto reject by the majority of agents if you don't do it-esp if your query is intriquing and well-written, as Illiterwrite pointed out. It's just not.