letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 192
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy (1), young adult (1)

This week’s fun fact:
Angel queries significantly outnumber vampire queries in this week’s paranormal and/or urban fantasy pitches.

Dear Authors:

It’s often recommended to personalize a query and one of the most frequent methods is to mention a book from the agent’s list that you have read and liked, which may lead a person to believe that there’s enough similarity in taste for a connection. Or, even more specifically, a book on the agent’s list that is close enough in style and type to the novel that is the subject of the query that it would be a good match.

It can be interesting to see what books get chosen. Naturally, the more popular and best-selling the client, the more their name seems to appear. I certainly appreciate hearing that someone has enjoyed one of the books by my clients.

I advise a person to research carefully —

* Be sure the book/author actually is represented by the agent, or there could be egg on your face.

* If the book hasn’t been published yet, it might not be a good choice to cite it as there is a reasonable doubt that there has been an opportunity to read it. This has already happened to me this year and made me feel that the person just went to my website and picked the first thing they saw rather than it being a genuine comment. If you do have the opportunity to read something early, for example as an ARC, perhaps a phrase indicating the source of admiration for the book might help.

* If you’re comparing the novel in the query to a novel on the agent’s list, at least be sure they have something in common. Sometimes these comparisons come across as quite a stretch of the imagination.

7 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. Good article.
    I know a few authors who have changed agents in the past couple of years so where their first book or three might have been repped by one person, the next book on their list is repped by someone new.
    The research comment is well-taken too. Especially when making comments about the genre sub-types represented by the agent. I admit I just stumbled across that one a couple of weeks ago. Apparently I need to brush up on my genre definitions because what I understood about the genre was completely different from what the queried agent saw in the genre.
    Whoops.

  2. That can be a problem, since I don’t know of anyone who writes the way I do. Partly that’s deliberate, since my only rule of writing is ‘If you’ve seen it done before, don’t do it again’, but also it’s because I made up a style that suited my preferences in reading. Very little descriptive prose, an emphasis on what the character is perceiving, thinking, etc.

  3. Can’t I just say I love your blog and Elizabeth Bear and move on to the query?

  4. I’ve read that if you compare your book to one the agent already reps, said agent might be hesitant to take on your project due to a conflict of interests, etc., etc. What’s your take on that?

  5. I love “The Odyssey” by Jim Bear.

  6. Is it acceptable to compare your own work to a novel that the agent did NOT represent?
    For example, in my query I compare my novel to a specific series because, regardless of who I’m querying or who represents that author, it really feels like the most accurate reference. And it is a fairly notable author and series (within the genre, anyway) so I assume that any good agent would understand what I meant. But I wonder if I am committing an etiquette faux pas?

  7. How about a novel about an angel and a vampire living as roommates?
    They could be the new odd couple literary sensation. 😉
    ~Furious D
    http://dknowsall.blogspot.com

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