The personalized touch in queries

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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Amanda Elizabeth
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The personalized touch in queries

Post by Amanda Elizabeth » June 21st, 2012, 1:49 am

I've been reading how each query letter should be personalized to the agent you're sending it to. Does this mean mention of their clients recent work? Where you found their name?

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CharleeVale
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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by CharleeVale » June 21st, 2012, 4:04 am

It can. It can also be a couple brief sentences about why you decided to query them in the first place. But while it's nice, I don't think you should feel pressured to do this. I've seen many strong and successful queries that have only the name personalized. Just make sure you get the spelling right!

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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by Sommer Leigh » June 21st, 2012, 10:40 am

Check out the very awesome Matthew MacNish's blog "The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment." They discuss and critique queries regularly. Matt is very knowledgable and his readers offer great suggestions as well. It is nice to see what other people have done and what everyone finds successful.
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cheekychook
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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by cheekychook » June 21st, 2012, 12:47 pm

It can be something as simple as saying "I'm querying you because you rep so and so, who is my favorite (insert genre) author" or "I've chosen to query you because in interviews you've said you're an editorial agent and I that's an important feature I'm seeking in an agent." Basically say anything that shows the agent that you didn't just pull their name out a hat---that there's a reason why you're querying them---that you've done some homework and spent some time looking into who they are and what they want. SOME agents don't care if you have the personal statement or not but the vast majority will admit that having one will go a long way toward making them feel more open to your work. They see thousands of queries, they like to feel that at least some of them are arriving in their inbox because the author actually does like/want/respect them and doesn't just blindly want anyone with the word "agent" on their business card. Also, some agents actually specify that they want to know why you're querying them in particular---in those cases dig deep, read their blogs, read their posts, read their Twitter accounts---have a real reason why and tell them what it is. Good luck!
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LizV
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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by LizV » April 30th, 2013, 2:57 pm

Revitalizing an old thread because I'm struggling with this very thing lately.

I do a lot of research on an agent before I query them, so you'd think personalization would be easy. Unfortunately, (a) I suck at it, and (b) my reason for picking a particular agent usually boils down to some variant of "I like this person's style." Trying to spin that into a why-I'm-querying-you passage without sounding either disturbingly stalkery or so vague that it proves nothing is leaving me stumped to the point that I usually just skip the personalization (beyond spelling their name right, of course) entirely. But I know a lot of agents like it.

Any pointers? The usual "you rep my favorite author" examples don't apply, for various reasons.

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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by Robin Murarka » August 4th, 2013, 2:01 am

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Last edited by Robin Murarka on January 30th, 2014, 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

telos
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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by telos » August 19th, 2013, 10:43 am

If you can get (or purchase) a subscription to Publishers Marketplace, there's invaluable data there. For example, if the agent recently posted a deal, you could start off by congratulating them on it. You could also mention a trend: "I see that many of your recent sales are in the XX genre . . . "

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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by LizV » November 6th, 2013, 12:44 pm

Appropos to the topic: http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/201 ... ation.html

That isn't why JR was one of the first agents I queried... but it sure didn't hurt any!

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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by chal4oye » January 2nd, 2014, 5:51 am

Unfortunately, (a) I suck at it, and (b) my reason for picking a particular agent usually boils down to some variant of "I like this person's style." Trying to spin that into a why-I'm-querying-you passage without sounding either disturbingly stalkery or so vague that it proves nothing is leaving me stumped to the point that I usually just skip the personalization (beyond spelling their name right, of course) entirely. But I know a lot of agents like it.
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Re: The personalized touch in queries

Post by Lew » August 10th, 2016, 3:51 pm

Just started sending queries, and asked for feedback on one of my first rejections, because it was my first. The person was very helpful, and said she sent me a personal rejection (not a form) because I had sent her a personalized query (not a form letter with name fill in the blank). She found my query good and the book interesting, but she had just taken on another book and could not do another.

I have two personalizations:
1. Why I chose that agent. The first 13 were because they were listed in a Writers Digest articles seeking submissions in July, the rest are the top 100 agents for debut writers (that's me) recommended by my editor, Hildie Block (in case they know her).
2. Why I think they will find my work interesting. I go to their page on the agency and see what they like, genres (mine is historical fiction) and types and styles of writing they like to see. I try to pitch that next sentence toward their preferences, or veer off, if my work is not their bag. Only then do I go in to tell them how great my work is.

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