Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Where does that personal connection info belong in your query?

I'm preparing to dive into the query trenches. This means I'm in line edit phase on my manuscript, I'm prepping my agent list (sadly you are not on it as my novel is MG), and I've cobbled together a pretty bang up query.

As an avid Reider, I subscribe to the QOTKU's query structure - book summary, housekeeping, bio. However, I have a few referrals and personal connections I'd like to mention in select queries, but I'm torn on how to structure those specifically. Do I:

1. Keep the current structure and add the personalization in with the housekeeping details?

2. Add a brief introduction with personal connection and continue with general query structure of book sum, housekeeping, bio?

3. Change the structure completely for those select queries and lead with housekeeping/personal connection followed by book summary and bio?

Clearly my hamster wheel is spinning. Back to line edits it is ...

If you have a personal connection to the agent, lead with it.

All too often people try to personalize the query with something like "I follow you on Twitter, and you're the funniest thing since Barbara Poelle" which may be true, but isn't a connection. 
I wish it were; I'd be glued to the lip of Idris Elba since I follow him on Twitter and he's the hottest Bond since Timothy Dalton (ok, I know that's going to get me in trouble with purists, but I LOVE Timothy Dalton.)

gratuitous photo of Idris Elba, who needs to query me right NOW

Oh wait, queries, right.

Lead with the genuine personalization or connection. If you're responding to a #MSWL or a #PitMad request, that goes first too.

What does NOT go first is some sort of manufactured connection you think you need. You don't.

After the personalization, continue as normal: what the story is; housekeeping; your bio.

It looks like this:
Dear Janet,

Idris Elba gave me your name after reading my manuscript. He said he was sorry about calling the police that night in Baltimore. He hadn't realized you were scouting for PantsOnFire Publications.

Furtive Furlong has been a racecourse pickpocket for several prosperous years. He's gotten wallets, and watches, and more than a few SmartTrip cards as he's glad handed the rich and famous.

Now he's found himself with something he didn't expect: the wallet and keys of a dead man. Just moments after the lift, Herbert Harrison dropped dead at the concession stand.

Now Furtive has the goods, and it's not so good.

I'd die of happiness to be compared to Dick Francis for the race track setting of this book; it's genuinely more of a caper novel that I hope would remind readers of Donald Westlake (again, death by happiness).

I ride horses but don't pick pockets in suburban Maryland. Which is where I met Idris Elba who, again, is real sorry about that straitjacket and squad car call.

Furtive in Funkstown runs 63,000 words.
I have an active mailing list of 3000 names.
Yours truly

It does NOT look like this:

Dear Janet,
I saw your tweet about Idris Elba and I think he should be the next Bond too!

Furtive Furlong has been a racecourse pickpocket for several prosperous years. He's gotten wallets, and watches, and more than a few metro cards as he's glad handed the rich and famous.


You're in luck today; questions are FREE!
Ask away.


Bunny said...

I can't stop laughing!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh my puffy-pants,I'm glad you're back.

Sherry Howard said...

Well-rested and raring to go! Ha!

MA Hudson said...

Next thing you know, you'll have a book deal, Janet!
Surely you must be a little bit tempted to send that query out to unsuspecting agents and then gleefully watch the requests flood in.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am so tempted to send my dry-cleaning bill to QOTKU as she so often makes me snort coffee all over my clothing. So funny.

OP I am so glad you asked this question. I was wondering the same thing as I am about to climb back into the query trenches. Boy, this blog is the shit.

Ok, day job.

Timothy Lowe said...

Ummm...I would request that book -- IMMEDIATELY.

Glad to have these daily posts back!

NLiu said...

Furtive FTW!

On a more important note, re: personalisations, does entering or indeed winning your flash fiction contests count? Asking for a friend.

P.S. So glad to see you back!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Excellent question, more than excellent response. Hilarious...

Elissa M said...

I'm trying to decide if it's a good or bad thing that I have no personal connections with anyone in publishing. Good: I don't have to worry about where to shove anything extra in a query. Bad: I don't have any personal connections.

Like everyone else, I love the sample query's set-up. The tone makes me think more Lemon-drop Kid than a serious mystery/thriller. As you said, a "caper". So, this is also a great example of tone in a query--assuming the story is more humorous than heart-racing.

Beth Carpenter said...

Please notify my when this book gets written and published because I must know what happens.

BrendaLynn said...

Yes to Idris. No to Timothy. Long live Daniel.

Panda in Chief said...

What about those of us who are old enough to remember Sean Connery's Bond? ya, ya, completely off topic. I want to read this book too. Do you swear you haven't been cranking out thrillers under a pen name, Janet?

Great question, great answer.

Jen said...

That picture of Idris Elba as Bond made my day. :)

Theresa said...

Great advice and an Idris photo. What a wonderful day!

April said...

Questions are free? All right, I've got one.

I LOVE writing YA fairy tale novels. But I'm also really passionate about Christian minimalism and I want to write about that, too! Should I focus on one until it gets traction and then add in the other (potentially with a pen name for the second if that would help)? Or is it fine if I pursue both since their audiences don't overlap?

Craig F said...

I had made some friends in low places when I thought I was going to be a thriller writer.

Then I found out that the market for thrillers is saturated, so I went to sci-fi. Now I am going to have to just hope my story is mesmerizing enough that I can get there on my own.

Good question, greater answer. I would like to see a more urbane 007 someday and Idris can do that.

Claire Bobrow said...

Late to the party today, but what a party! I hope the specialty cocktail is a Vesper.

As a former Dick Francis fanatic, I'd read Furtive Furlong. Maybe Idris Elba could do the audiobook during breaks on the Bond set. I think he's going to be great. In my opinion, Daniel Craig in Casino Royale smokes the past competition, but - throw me in cell #007 - I actually liked Timothy Dalton.

John Davis Frain said...


Idris Elba.

Sam Mills said...

*whispers* I also love Timothy Dalton

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

"Questions are freeeee." I feel scared, getting visions of the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang... Lollipops, treacle tarts, ice cream. Sleeping with the lights on tonight!