I've studied through the archives on both your sites, getting my query lean and mean, giving a preview of my story that's tasty and enticing—250-some words, spare and clean-looking on the page—and now, ready to send. But.....
In my preparation I've also read a lot of agents I must respect to whom it's nothing more than common sense that all queriers explain "why I queried." So, my first batch is six—including three solid references—and I came up with one very short rationale for querying each and stuck it at the end of my carefully honed, muscularly worded, winsomely teasing query.
Now my query looks terrible. It looks like a big fat book-report, where some kid threw in EVERYTHING he had in order to fill up the page. It blobs the whole landscape. To speak aesthetically, it's OVERWEIGHT.
I know you've discussed this before, but for the love of mercy, please discuss it again. Do we REALLY have to do this? If this or that well-desired agent says, "Of course you MUST give me some special reason you queried: you MUST do ten minutes of research, and you MUST prove to me you did so....."
Must we? On aesthetic grounds I object.
Thank you for giving me the chance for one last rant this year. Here it is: Personalization is a waste of time.
I started thinking about this a while back. It was prompted by a post at Quartz.com about ineffective, spammy PR pitches. Here's the post I was reading: Dear PR person who just sent me a robo pitch
Robo pitches are the kiss of death in PR. Since my career path was via book publicity I've known that since forever. When I read that post, I was strategizing how long it would take to get an in-house PR person up to speed if starting from scratch, since you absolutely cannot just email everyone you know with "hey, here's my book, how about a nice review in your next column/blogpost/twitter feed."
And the answer was a substantial number of months if not a year would be required to build a data base from scratch.
The only reason that didn't make me run screaming into the night, is that once that data base is built, it's usable for other clients and other projects. It gets MORE valuable the more you work it and use it, because you end up with lots of contacts and lots of information that you can use and reuse.
When I sold my PR business, what I was selling was the data base of contacts and the information about them.
That's the same kind of data base that many of you are creating for querying.
Except, once you have an agent you don't need it anymore. One thing that makes a PR date base worth building well is that it GAINS value over time and use.
One thing that makes an agent data base less worthwhile is that it ceases to have value once you have an agent.
Another value to a PR data base is one person is pitching different writers. A columnist/reviewer who doesn't respond to Thriller A may well respond to Thriller B from a different writer.
An agent data base that you're building is for one writer: you. An agent who doesn't respond to your Thriller A can't be queried for Thriller B the next day. Your pitching inventory is one project at a time. When I worked in PR I was pitching five or six books in any given month.
Thus, asking queriers to have individual details about individual agents to put in a query letter means we're asking you for months if not a year of work that will benefit you once, then not again.
Think about that for a second.
Well, no, think about that for a minute.
If you had to pay someone to do build that data base, would you? If I had to pay someone to build a PR database that's usable for just one client would I? No. It doesn't make any business sense to do that.
That's when I realized that asking writers to build a data base of agents wasn't a good use of time or resources, unless you think you'll be querying ten books in two years.
The good news for writers is that an agent isn't going to reject your work if you haven't included some personalizing detail or reason for querying. Write well- that's all that matters.
And frankly that's why ANY time spent building a data base of agents likes/dislikes etc is a bad use of time: writing well takes an enormous amount of time. Taking time away from that is not in your best interest. And frankly it's not in mine either.
You'll serve both our interests in spending as much time doing what you're good at: writing. I'll serve both our interests by doing what I'm good at: keeping you chained to your desk and demanding pages.