10 Ways To Personalize Your Query to Agents

Writers hear that they’re supposed to personalize their queries–but “how personal, exactly?” is the most common question. The best queries show that they have engaged with us before (on Twitter, read an interview, or a blog post of ours) and have done their research. It’s easier than you think to show that personal touch.

Below are TEN great query intro’s you can model yours after:

“You’ve mentioned on your blog an interest in XX and so BOOK TITLE HERE might be of special interest to you.”

“After reading (and loving) CLIENT BOOK TITLE HERE, I am submitting BOOK TITLE HERE for your review.”

“I noticed on Manuscript Wishlist you are looking for XX and XX so I’m submitting BOOK TITLE HERE.”

“I am seeking representation for my novel, BOOK TITLE HERE, a work of XX complete at XX-words. For readers of XX and CLIENT BOOK TITLE HERE.”

“I enjoyed your interview with XX and am eager to present to you my query for BOOK TITLE HERE.”

“As per your request on #MSWL, I am hoping you’ll be interested in my book, BOOK TITLE HERE, an …”

“I am excited to offer, for your consideration, BOOK TITLE HERE, one that is HOOK, like your #MSWL requests.”

“I am contacting you about my novel BOOK TITLE HERE because of your wishlist mention of XX and XX.”

“I noticed your tweet requesting XX and I thought my novel BOOK TITLE HERE could be just what you’re looking for.”

“I am seeking representation for my GENRE novel BOOK TITLE HERE complete at XX-words. It is similar in theme to CLIENT BOOK TITLE HERE.”

You don’t need to gush too much and you don’t need to flatter us. You just have to use your professional judgment to share why you think we’d be a fit. If you tell me that you’ve read my blog chances are I’m going to like that because it shows that you understand what I’m looking for. If you’ve read my clients’ books that shows we might have similar taste. If you cite my MSWL posts that shows some research. It’s really the little details that will set you apart from the pack.

Make sure to also include in this opening paragraph: word count, genre/category/audience and don’t forget your book title!



What I’m Looking for Fall ’13 Edition

I post what I’m looking for in submissions on my blog and in every interview I give, but I thought I’d take some time today to elaborate on what gets my heart rate accelerating, and things I’m especially looking for in my inbox this fall.


1. Upmarket Women’s Fiction

Also called ‘Book Club Books’ women’s fiction is about the space between literary and commercial. It needs to be both character and plot driven, pull at some heart strings, and be about more than romance (but I, of course, want some romance and troubled love stories in there!). I’m open to anything with a suspenseful or thriller twist, historical setting, and–as well as straight contemporary.

Examples: Jennifer Close, Meg Mitchell Moore, Sarah Jio, Nichole Bernier, Allison Winn Scotch, Beth Hoffman, Curtis Sittenfeld, Karen White, Susana Daniel, Mary Alice Monroe, Jojo Moyes, and my wonderful client Taylor Jenkins Reid

fromashes2. High Stakes YA or Original New Adult

I like high stakes romance and drama. Whether it’s a thriller or romance, what the characters stand to lose is an important part of keeping me hooked. I especially like contemporary settings and issues that face today’s teen. I’m open to the New Adult age category, but most importantly the age category has to suit the story.

Examples: Hopeless (Colleen Hoover), From Ashes (Molly McAdams), Burn for Burn (Jenny Han), Pretty Little Liars (Sara Shepard), The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Jennifer E. Smith), If I Stay (Gayle Forman), Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell), Sarah Dessen, Jennifer Echols

powerofhabit3. Pop Science and Pop Psychology proposals

What I love about working on pop science and pop psychology is learning something new from the experts. If you are an expert and can explain a fascinating topic and new argument in a compelling and clear way, then I want to see your proposal.

Examples: The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg), Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain), Switch: How To Change When Things Are Hard (Chip Heath), Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Michael Moss)

Tumbleweeds4. Multiple POV Fiction

I love books that let me get into multiple characters’ heads. I feel like this gives writers the opportunity to paint a really complex picture and intersect the drama from many different angles. And, it’s satisfying because it’s not something we’re able to do in our real lives: get into the heads of the people around you.

Examples: The Slap (Christos Tsiolkas), Nineteen Minutes (Jodi Picoult), Summerland (Elin Hilderbrand), Tumbleweeds (Leila Meacham), Beautiful Ruins (Jess Walter)

smittenkitchen5. Health and Wellness

This is a crowded market, but I’m always on the lookout for fresh angles and controversial ways to discuss health and wellness topics. This includes cookbooks, diet books, lifestyle books, memoir, relationship books, and more.

Examples: Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Gary Taubes), Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself (Alejandro Junger), The Happiness Project (Gretchen Rubin), The Secrets of Happy Families  (Bruce Feiler), Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar (David Perlmutter), Sugar Nation: The Hidden Truth Behind America’s Deadliest Habit and the Simple Way to Beat It (Jeff O’Connell), Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Deb Perelman)


I’m an agent and a reader. Make it impossible for me to put down. If you have written anything similar to what I’ve outlined above, please send! I’m also open to being surprised. Fresh voices and concepts are what keeps the business going ’round. In general, I’m drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in–in fiction. And in non fiction I want to learn something new and read something fresh.

Send your query to query@psliterary.com.

Agent response times

If agents offer responses to queries and requested material (4 to 8 weeks is standard) it might seem like a long time to wait. You’ve just sent them the most important document you’ve ever written! (Or something to that effect…) Here’s why it’s worth the wait:

  • Not only are agents trying to balance incoming queries and combing them for projects that pique their interest, agents are simultaneously managing the projects and careers of the agents they do have.
  • When you get an agent you’ll want and expect them to give their full attention to you, so you have to respect how agents divide their time in the process leading up to that stage.
  • I know weeks seems like a long time, but an agent doesn’t have time on a daily basis to check queries let alone read manuscripts that are not from clients. Agents read queries and requested material once all the other work is done, and even then it takes days and weeks to make time. Continue reading Agent response times

When material is requested, get it in the agent’s hands!

If/when your work is requested by an agent it’s in your best interest to get it to them ASAP.

If you take a long time to get your work to an agent (I’m talking 1 to 2 weeks) it says that:

a) You haven’t edited your work and you queried too soon

b) You haven’t finished your work and you’re finishing it now

c) You aren’t taking this process seriously and aren’t checking your query emails Continue reading When material is requested, get it in the agent’s hands!