Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Query Advice: Doing Your Research

I do wonder about linking up your book with something the agent represents. Perhaps the agent represents a book that is similar in some ways to yours--and because you researched them and know this, you are querying them. I've read this is a good thing to do--is it?

Yes, this is generally a good thing to do. It definitely won't hurt and it might help. However, we still only care about your writing, so you could say you personally know every single author on our list and it wouldn't help if you don't know where commas go.


Second Drafter said...

But I'm still not sure how you do this!

"I just read ___________ by your client _______________ and enjoyed it."

Then what?

"My work is similar..."

"If you like ______ with _________, you may like my ..."

I'm just not sure. Sounds...just not right, somehow.

The Rejecter said...

The point is, you can mention that your work is similar to the work of the CLIENTS of the AGENT, but not general authors who happen to be bestsellers.

Anonymous said...

Hey Secong Drafter,

When I wrote to my agent, I said something along the lines of...

I thought of you for this project because my MC, much like Suzie in "Your Client's Book," must search outside her family for comfort after a tragedy yada, yada, yada...

That way, I showed that not only had I researched who her clients are, I actually read their books and saw a connection.

Good Luck!


ORION said...

In my query for my (now) agent I said "I understand you are interested in quirky fiction. I would like to show you my novel XXXXXXXXX.
Then I went right into my hook.
I agree with the rejecter.
It's the premise.
It's the writing.

Linda Adams said...

It says that you did more than look them up in the Writer's Market and shotgun queries out. You can also take a unique element and look for books that are similar and submit off that. For example, if you wrote a small town mystery about jigsaw puzzles, you could do this for agents who take small town mysteries, as well as for ones who take mysteries with the hobby aspect.

Anonymous said...

It says that you did more than look them up in the Writer's Market and shotgun queries out.

No one has yet given me a rational explanation as to why this is presumed to be such a fatal sin. Surely that's exactly what agents expect writers to be doing, isn't it?

If "it's all about the writing," why would any professional agent be swayed one way or another by this?

Anonymous said...

Because it's all about the writing in a genre/style that that particular agent likes, and you can't know that til you do some research. Otherwise you're wasting your time and the agent's time (or publisher, if you're shotgunning them)...and that leads to more & more people closing their doors, and fewer and fewer opportunities for writers trying to break in. Yuk!


Anonymous said...

Rejector, thank you for mentioning that "knowing where the commas go" counts. I can definitely see that poor grammar or punctuation or spelling would be an easy path to a form rejection letter.

Second Drafter said...

Thank you, Rejecter and readers! especially anonymous. "I thought of you for this project" is precisely the kind of wording clarification I was fishing for!

Linda Adams said...

No one has yet given me a rational explanation as to why this is presumed to be such a fatal sin. Surely that's exactly what agents expect writers to be doing, isn't it?

Here's an example of where shotgunning becomes a problem. Writer has written a cozy mystery. He hits the Writer's Market and finds twenty agents that take mysteries and shotguns query letters to them, just based on the WM entry.

Among those agents include:

- agents whose listing says they take mystery, but they haven't sold one.

- agents who are looking for hard-boiled mysteries, not cozies

- a scam agent who hasn't sold any at all, but is willing to make the book sound like a best seller if you cross his palm with gold.

- agents who are no longer accepting fiction

- agents who have died, moved on, retired, etc.

Why waste time and money to send queries to what a few minutes research will show is an inappropriate market?

And if that isn't reason enough ... two agents from different agencies riding to a conference on the train took queries to read with them. Both were surprised to see that each one held an identical query from the same writer, sent to both of them. One of those agents later said that if she gets a shotgun email with multiple agents in the email line, it's an automatic delete.

Steve said...

My latest book is noir, hard-boiled, two-fisted, literary and dark. I started pitching my latest book by looking up the agents for other writers in a similar vein. Starting on my own bookshelves.

I haven't made a big deal of it in my queries. It's more about knowing that my keywords strike a sympathetic chord. That way, I avoid wasting time (the agents' and my own) with those who were at their best with cozies, police procedurals, etc.

I haven't done a lot of querying with it, either. Too much interest!

Termagant 2 said...

My niche market boasts about a dozen agents. Agencies like the Rejecter's don't even want queries for what I write. So in querying, I DO have a tendency to "shotgun" all twelve or so, and find out if any is even willing to give me a read. I'd rather take a chance I'd waste their time, than not query them at all and waste mine sending to agents who don't sell in my market.

And Linda, you forgot to mention those agents who claim to take a certain genre but when you query, they don't anymore, or had just one slot for a fiction writer and filled it last month, or they DO take your genre but not your sub-genre, or their web site states they do but they don't....