Thanks to everyone I met at the East of Eden Writer’s Conference! I had a great time in scenic Salinas.
Not sure what’s in the proverbial waters, but I’ve been hearing from people lately that they are specifically choosing not to personalize a query letter because they don’t like kissing up to agents.
Trust me, I know the query process is difficult to navigate and is frustrating, and the power imbalance between agent and querying author is not always a fun thing to deal with (at least, that is, until the tables are turned and you have multiple offers of representation and agents are groveling at your feet).
Perhaps the stress of the query process leads people to feel more sensitive to slights, real or perceived. Totally understand that. But anyone deliberately not personalizing is shooting their query in the foot, and then stomping on it and telling the query it was actually left in a bundle by the stork and its real parents are trolls from another planet.
Personalizing is not kissing up. Witness:
“I read your blog.” Kiss-up-o-meter: 2/10. The judges note that the phrase does not imply any value judgment, and author could very well feel that the blog is a steaming pile of excrement. But at least it shows the agent that the author is doing their research.
“I noticed that you represented [insert author agent represents].” Kiss-up-o-meter: 1/10. Judges note that the author simply is demonstrating professionalism and research and may not even like said books.
For some reason I think there’s an idea percolating out there that we agents want people to kiss our rings and tell us how great we are before we’ll even look twice at a query. This is SO SO SO SO not the case. I’m as creeped out by excessive/inappropriate praise as the next agent, particularly when the praise has nothing to do with my job. However, personalizing is not kissing up. It’s being professional. And if you’re deliberately choosing not to take that path… well, you’re sacrificing professionalism for excessive pride. Not a great exchange!
Now, I also should mention that if you are giving vague personalization (like “I see you represent X genre” or “I found you on Agent Query”), this doesn’t really count as personalization because it could very easily be said about every agent you’re querying. Be specific when you’re personalizing.
For the record, I would never reject a query just because it was not personalized. But if you CAN personalize a query, don’t shoot your query in the foot, stomp on it and tell it the query it was actually left in a bundle by the stork and its real parents are trolls from another planet by choosing not to. Personalize.