Originally posted January 15, 2008
I’m on quite the query kick these days, and there are no signs of stopping the quermentum. Query power! Hop on board the query train! Put your queries in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care! I’ll stop now.
One of the more hilarious things that people do in query letters (besides ones that are actually funny), is to try and fake me out by pretending they’ve read my client’s books. Having read these books several times each at the minimum, trust me — I know these books. I am not going to be fooled.
So when an author says they can tell how much X author appreciates my work on their behalf based on the acknowledgments in X book…. I’m going to know when I’m not actually in the acknowledgments for that book (yes, this happened).
I realize that these queriers mean well and are just trying to personalize, but they’re really missing the whole point of personalization. The goal of personalization isn’t to suck up to the agent and score cheap points, the goal is to show that you are a diligent, hard-working author who is familiar with the conventions of the industry, are abiding by them, and you have familiarized yourself with the agent as much as possible before you queried them. All of these latter qualities, it just so happens, are qualities that bode well for a successful author.
As much as some people think we agents just want people to suck up to us, it’s really not true. We are just looking for authors who embody the qualities (hard work, diligence, attention to detail, familiarity with the publishing business) we see in other successful authors. Taking the easy way out and/or trying to fool an agent is not on the list of desirable qualities.
Now, don’t get me wrong — as nice as it would be, I don’t expect everyone who queries me to read all of my clients’ books and display a sweeping command of them in the query. There are people who read at least one, and I really do appreciate that and I take note of that kind of dedication, but it’s not a guarantor. As much as I want to be the first person people query, I don’t want to monopolize their time. So trust me. I’m not suggesting you write a book report in addition to a query.
But there is an art to personalization, and it’s important to convey the qualities that an agent is looking for. Dedication and diligence are important, so if you query me I hope you’ll do your homework, read “The Essentials” and sure, if you’ve read books by my clients, mention that. Just don’t try and trick me.