letters from the query wars 7.22.2011

# of queries responded to last week: 143
# of partials/manuscript requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries responded to this week: 197
# of partials/manuscript requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: high fantasy, YA-paranormal

On a recent post, Garth asked: “what constitutes an “individual”-ized query?” in response to my noting that a query had in weeks past explained “the lack of time to craft individual letters to agents” which I found somewhat irksome.

I was so certain I’d done a post on this in the past, but couldn’t turn it up, so…..

For me (and please note your mileage may vary with other agents), the simple use of a greeting at the start of the query is sufficient. For example, “Dear Ms. Jackson” — yes, that easy.

Garth also mentions attempting to bring up clients the agent represents in the query, and admits that sometimes he really stretched to make comparisons. IMO, if there’s something that seems like a clear connection, it’s helpful to mention it. But I don’t think it’s necessary, and if it’s quite a stretch, it may be a disadvantage rather than evidence of research. Keep in mind that agents are reviewing thousands of queries per year, so the key is to get attention the good way — whether that’s through a personal comment or just plain great writing.

Lately, there have also been several queries that neglect to have a letter at all. People are simply sending a chunk of pages pasted into an email, and it’s the complete opposite of anything remotely personalized. Sometimes it’s cc:ed to a number of agents (don’t do this). It’s often much more than the number of pages our submission guidelines request. It’s sometimes a selection of random chapters. And with no context, such as the introductory query letter or even a synopsis, it’s not useful in making any evaluation of whether to request more.

Just yesterday, a query explained the length of time the author had taken to write the book, information about the freelance editor hired, and how very earnestly the author was seeking representation. And had no pages. No synopsis. Only a few very brief sentences said anything about the content of the book at all. Perforce, I sat there wondering why a person would invest that much in creating and then just fling it at the barn wall to see if it would stick. I admit to feeling flummoxed. Even though this isn’t the first time this has occurred, nor the first time I’ve pondered it. But it just keeps tripping me up when it happens.

Long story, short: don’t cut your story off at the knees by hobbling it with query handicaps before it even gets out of the gate.

One response to “letters from the query wars 7.22.2011

  1. I am always terrified that I will forget to attach, paste in, or otherwise forget to get the actual *story* pages to conform to whatever the right procedure is for That Specific Agent or Editor.

    Ugh, I swear I’d shoot that above sentence before I ever used it formally.

    However, my terror makes me check about five times (at least!), to make sure that I’ve attached (or pasted in) the file, that it’s in the right format, that I’m using my correct email address, etc. So it’s a *good* terror!

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