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!



Infographic: Do You Know The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket and Commercial Fiction?

Knowing how to categorize your work is one of the most important skills a writer needs to know–especially while querying. Here’s an infographic to help. It’s not perfect and there are many places that writers won’t fit into and that doesn’t mean it’s not a marketable book. However, learning how to market yourself starts with knowing where your book stands and where it will sit on bookshelves.

Fiction Category Infographic

5 Things To Do If An Agent Has Your Manuscript For Months

Writers always ask: What does it mean if an agent has my manuscript for awhile?

Answer: Nothing.

It means nothing if we’ve had it for a long time.

It doesn’t mean we aren’t interested.

It doesn’t mean we’ve read it and are failing to get back to you.

It means that we likely haven’t even got to it yet. So you can presume absolutely nothing.

So, what do you do when an agent has had your manuscript for months?

1. Write more. The answer to everything is keep writing. Don’t let the waiting game slow you down. When an agent is interested they’ll want to see what else you’re working on too. So keep writing.

2. Check their guidelines. Most agents say they’ll get back to writers of requested material in 6 weeks to 3 months. But some say 6 months. And some say they’ll only reply if interested. Base your expectations on their actual guidelines.

3. Only follow up once their guidelines timeline is up. Or, if you have an offer or other news to update them with (important blurb, award you’ve won etc).

4. Keep querying. One nibble doesn’t mean you’ve caught a fish. The more lines you cast the better chance you have!

5. Avoid playing games. You’ll waste a lot of unnecessary energy playing games like reading too much into an agent’s social media feed, emailing them to ask about the status of their slush pile, or other things like that. It’s not worth the stress. Remember: no answer means nothing.

Don’t forget: You can always listen to sad music and write angsty poetry or start a funny parody Twitter account. You know, if you’re still feeling melancholy.

Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered! Part IV

Question from Renee:
I sent a query letter into an agent that looked fine on my screen but when I looked to see what it looked like it was all scrunched together. Are agents forgiving of computer glitches?

Subjective question, but in all honesty these are things you should be checking before you send them to agents. You should email your query to yourself, your partner, your friends–whoever will look at it!–to see how it looks in email format. To me, format does make an impression, but it’s not the end of the world.

Question from Jackie:
Continue reading Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered! Part IV