Sunday, April 24, 2011

The art of a template query letter

Obviously you do not write a new query to every agent. (You do know that, right?)

What you do have is a template: the body of the query, the signature, etc. that stay the same for each agent. If this is new territory for you check out the QueryShark blog that critiques query letters sent to the Shark. Read all 200 entries and you'll see what I mean.

Where you want to be careful on those templates and in personalizing the query is that you get the information RIGHT.

Here are some mistakes I've seen recently:

1. "I'm querying you because you like MG fiction"
I love my colleague's MG fiction but I don't rep it and I don't sell it. You're welcome to query me for it; I'll send you a form rejection. When you specifically write that I like MG fiction, it shows me you're either not paying attention, or you're keeping sloppy records. Neither of those things are positive attributes.

2. "I"m querying cause you're at a small agency."
This just makes me laugh. In case you think FPLM is small, consider that we have 12 agents on the FPLM team and we're actually one of the biggest independent agencies in town. There's nothing wrong with wanting a small agency, but FPLM isn't that. Again, this shows you're not paying attention.

Personalization can be tricky. The truth is you really don't need it. Write well enough, and have a project I want to read, and you can leave off all the personalization.

Be careful. Don't bite yourself in the asterisk. Leave the chomping to The Shark Herself.


Kim hanks said...

Happy Easter Janet and thanks for that information.

LynNerd said...

LOL! Love the comment, "Don't bite yourself in the asterisk." Thanks for the common sense tip. I think most of us know this, just need a reminder now and then.

BP said...

Well, I think it would just be a whole lot simpler if they all said: Hey, we're querying because "we have no clue who you are but heckmaybeyou'llpublishourstuff?!" Yeah. Much more tastefully done. :D

Thanks for the tips!!

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Happy Easter Janet. See you in an airport soon :)

Melissa said...

The QueryShark method WORKS.

I read the entire site and took careful notes. My query was close, but not quite a cigar. As soon as I revised it and started querying, I got four nibbles almost right away from agents I thought for sure would tell me to go hang on a rope. Partials are circulating. (Cue: nervousness, anxiety and sweat-beaded brow.)

Reading all of the critiques helped me create a query almost intuitively with far more confidence. It doesn’t seem like the uphill struggle it once was.

Michael Seese said...

Just make sure you "un-form-letter" it before even addressing it. That way, you'll never accidentally hit the "Send" button and mail out something like...

Dear :

I got your name from . Since you represent , you'll definitely want to read my book, . I've been told it's a lot like . It's complete and is just over <150 / 1,550 / 150> words.

I hope you want to read it .

Michael Seese

Trisha said...

It's good to be reminded of such things, no matter how obvious they may seem!

jaelynn said...

I have a question for your agency. To show im not dumb and blind, it pertains to this blurb from your website.
"Can I send to more than one agent at FinePrint?
Yes, but it's easier if you query us one by one. Those knock down drag out fights in the foyer when six of us want to represent you are really hard on the carpet."

I have read on some agent sites that they usually will toss ideas to eachother if they think it is a good pitch for someone else, so often time the site says don't bother.
I'm iffy on this, I think it is preferable to send a query to more than one agent at a company that I believe is fit for my work, but then again you may toss it to someone I hadn't read up on yet.
Do you all do that from time to time? Should I move to the next company if I get a standard form rejection? (if I do I usually feel that I am doing something wrong if its a form rejection, but thats me.)Or should I send to the next agent that states they handle the same type of book?

Janet Reid said...

Jaelynn, query one agent at a time. A rejection from one is not a rejection from the agency.

If you query two at the same time, and they both offer, we'll not only know about it (cause we share info on new clients and their projects) it will cause some problems. Those problems could result in both agents saying "fagedaboutit", something you do NOT want to hear.

Bluestocking Mum said...

Thanks for the information and advice Janet.

I just need to finish the MS now ;)

Sheila JG said...

AgentQuery lists you as representing middle grade, maybe that's where your querier got his/her info?

Michael Seese said...


This is what I get for posting at midnight, after having the family over for Easter dinner. It would have been much funnier if I had PREVIEWED it, and changed the "<" symbols to "(" resulting in:

Dear (AGENT):

I got your name from (The Writer's Market / a conference in Las Vegas / a bathroom wall in Las Vegas). Since you represent (YA / Civil War era biographies / lesbian fiction), you'll definitely want to read my book, (WHICHEVER ONE I FEEL LIKE). I've been told it's a lot like (the Twilight series / "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" / the movie "Liquid Sky"). It's complete and is just over (150 / 1,550 / 150) words.

I hope you want to read it (and if you don't you're a loser -- VERY CATHARTIC, BUT DELETE BEFORE SENDING!!).