This may seems like common sense, but it’s worth repeating: DO NOT copy your query letter to Agent A into your query letter for Agent B.
It may seem like a hassle to individualize the content of each query you’re sending out, but any alterations you make in differing your letters can help you make a connection with an agent.
You never want to start your letter with “Dear Literary Agent,” or “To Whom It May Concern” – that’s BAD FORM and will not get your letter read.
Agents want to know that you’ve done your homework on why they are the best agent for your book. Giving as much detail about who the author is, what they are looking for, and why you decided to query them lets the author know if they’re the best person to represent your manuscript.
I’m sure you’re still thinking this is a pain in the rump….. but this is actually a blessing in disguise. Using your query letter to be as specific as possible to the agent you’re querying helps you stand out from the thousands in the slush pile.
Depending on what the agent you’re querying is seeking, you can call your book science fiction or get more specific and call it cyberpunk. See, specifics sell! Depending on what the agent likes in pop culture, you can compare your zombie book to 28 Days Later or “The Walking Dead.” By taking the time to specify your query letters you’re really making a personal connection to the agent.
Here are a few points you can add to your query to make it more personable to the agent:
- If the agent represents X book, mention that you’re a fan of that novel and that your book is similar;
- If the agent represents Y author, mention that you’re a fan of their writing and that your book is similar;
- If you’ve previously met them at a conference, mention when and where;
- If you’ve read an interview they’ve done, mention something about it; or
- If you saw they were looking for a specific genre in an article or website interview, mention where you saw that information.
These are just a few ideas – as you research and find the best agents to query more ideas will come to you. Give this process proper time and proper thought and you will be surprised at the outcome!
And finally, consider this nightmare scenario: You’ve submitted the same query letter to 20 agents….then a friend points out a misspelling or two. Now you have a bad query letter in the hands of multiple agents. Embarrassing!
Don’t copy and paste!