I am currently in the query trenches. I’ve carefully researched the agents I’ll be querying, right down to the styles of writing they prefer. I meticulously personalize each letter to the t.
Imagine my sorrow when one of my top agents replies with a form response. I’ve looked on Querytracker for the types of responses she usually sends, and they’ve all been personalized! Except her letter to me!
Now, I’ve also gotten several full requests with the same query, so I don’t think the letter / sample pages completely suck. But I keep reading into agent responses and thinking, “how can the same letter make one agent request and another reject?”
If your book is sparkling, has a compelling plot and awesome characters, shouldn’t you have a 80% request rate? Agents don’t differ in tastes that much, do they?
P.S. Not saying my book is sparkling, necessarily. Just saying if there is a book out there that’s awesome, are there still agents who pass? How?
Back in the day Ann Landers used to print really oddball letters and than answer with "I'm so glad the fraternity boys at Yale are having some fun." She could pick out prank letters with near perfect acuity.
I thought I could too.
But the longer I looked at this, the more I wondered if you notorious rodent wheel spinners might have actually spun yourselves into this maelstrom.
So here's the answer:
You're kidding, right?
When I worked in politics, it was a given that we'd yield 30% of the vote. Even if our candidate walked on water, 30% of the electorate would vote for the other guy. (This is why elections in far flung places that have 99% of the vote going to the incumbent are called rigged.)
So, that's 70%.
And if you look at ANY political race, it's a landslide if a candidate gets more than 60%.
And that's picking one from a group of two.
The odds of eight out of ten people picking ONE SAME book from a selection of even five are pretty high. Just ask anyone trying to put together a reading list for a book group. And agents get queries for a hundred books a WEEK.
In other words, you're completely off the mark here.
Now, why this is a problem for you.
You've got an unrealistic idea of what success looks like so even if you succeed, you'll think you failed. That's a very bad thing.
And that will be a problem if you do secure an agent, a book deal, and have a book to promote. Book promotion is notoriously difficult to quantify. If you already think success is having a lot of people buy your book, you're going to go nuts when I tell you that you have to do all this promotional stuff and we don't even know if it will work, let alone how well it will work.
You're also taking things REALLY personally when you don't need to. Noticing who posts personalized rejections on querytracker is an exercise in masochism. You have NO IDEA if the agent sent a form letter only to you, because QueryTracker is self-reporting. There's no objective, measurable data pool from which to draw conclusions.
You're also placing way too much emphasis on personalizing a query. Writing style? I guess you could say I prefer short sentences, with a good strong rhythm, but if you mention that in a query, the only thing I'm going to conclude is you're spending too much time reading this blog, and not enough time working on your book.
Personalizing queries beyond a sentence or two is an utter and complete waste of time.
And there's much MUCH more to taking on a book than whether I like it. I have to want to work with the author (and there are enough of you out there who are nutso that I'm pretty careful about asking first and signing later.) I have to think I can sell it, and sadly, a lot of books I thought were great don't find a home, so I've learned to be a lot more conservative about this.
Agents have widely varying tastes, just like you and your friends do. In fact, if you need something to do (and you do, because you really need to stop that personalization fetish you've got going) go to five of your friends' houses and list every book they own. See what overlap there is.
I'd actually be interested to see what the percentage is. My guess is it's somewhere between 0-20%.
(in other words: not even close to 80%)
Bottom line: quit worrying about anything but getting the best possible query you can out to as many agents as you can.