#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happiness is.... knowing your audience

Before you do anything else go read this article about the relationships between self-esteem and materialism. Happy people don't buy things, and buying things doesn't make you happy. So, Dear Husband, should you read this.... don't buy me chocolate for Valentine's Day, give me an hour long back rub!


Okay, shameless gift hustling aside, since part of happiness relates to self-esteem and part of feeling good about yourself is doing something well, let's talk query letters.

I see you blinking, I know, it isn't a natural lead in. Work with it.

One of the perennial questions all authors ask is: How do I write a query? I've been reading up on the subject, scouring agent blogs, and I think I'm seeing a very dangerous trend. Form query letters... as in the same query letter sent to every agent on your wish list.

Sure it saves time, but is it the best bet? I'm not sure it is.

Here's my thought, not yet put into practice, maybe you should get the details on your agents first and, like the agents do when pitching your work to an editor, tailor the query to the agent.

For example:

Imagine you have just completed the worlds greatest sports mystery about a washed up NBA player turned crime fighter. You've carefully spellchecked, run the piece by your beta-readers and critique group, and edited until you cried tears of hot blood. You think it's finally ready to see the light of an agent's eye.

Now, at the top of your wish list for agents are tow major contenders, Agent A is a big time Chicago Bulls basketball fanatic. When you read Agent A's blog like a good little stalker you know there will be references to this years team and the season and everything else Bulls. Agent B is equally wonderful, but loves historical references.

Query to Agent A
Fluffy Fuzzypants is the hottest thing since the Bulls 93-94 season (do I hear 4-peat!), or he was until an attack by a stalker leaves him all washed up. Now even his Rabid Anti-Fans (the riff-RAF) are sending him sympathy cards. Feeling like he's lost the playoffs in overtime Fluffy packs his bags and heads home to Chicago where his ex-high school sweetheart hires him as a temporary secretary at her private eye firm....

Query to Agent B
Like Elliot Ness, Fluffy Fuzzypants is untouchable. He's never lost a game, never made a mistake, but after a stalker attacks him before playoffs Fuzzy is washed out. LA has lost it's magic, so Fuzzy packs up and heads back to his home beat of Chicago. Desperate to forget the pain he takes a job as...

Same story (made up on the fly- sorry) but with a slightly different pitch for each of the agent's interests. You can't write a book just for an agent, you need a wider scope than a readership of one. But the query letter is the bait, and it's a bait meant for one specimen at a time.

Before you query, do your homework. Know your audience. If you're reading this, you have internet, so go out and spend a week before you query reading up on your prey. What books do they recommend? What books do they rep? If they blog, what kind of insights can you get there? From their sense of humor would this agent be a good fit? What kind of opening is going to catch this agent's interest?

Happy Hunting


  1. A good point.

    I think probably a lot of people balk at the idea becuase it means MORE WORK. They get the "perfect query" done and don't want to go through it all again--which is understandable yes.

    It IS work, and admittedly if you heavily personalize a query for one agent and they say no, can you reuse that query, or is that work wasted?

    Well, I doubt it'd be wasted. You learned something, right? Maybe you can't reuse that letter exactly, but you could sure recycle the bits in another one, right?

    I'd think of something like personalizing or tweaking a boilerplate query you've perfected. Maybe one agent prefers longer queries with more info. Maybe one likes just two sentence blurbs and sample pages.

    It's worth trying, I think. Yes, it means more work and time and frustration--but you never know. Doing that extra work might end up landing you an agent.

    'Course, I'm not there yet. :P I may change my mind when I do. %-) Or I could just send zombies to the agencies...


  2. I'm all in favor of sending zombies m'self... but personalizing a little makes sense. Especially if it's an agent you *really* want to work with. Save the boilerplate for the people you can't find anything out about :o)