It’s a Relationship
Last month I wrote a post on the Top Ten Query Mistakes. The first two points were all about personalizing your query to the agents. They were:
#1. Not making me special, and
#2. Not caring who I am.
Now if you didn’t know me, those might seem like kind of narcisistic statements, and believe me, I did receive some flak for them. But I hope most people who read my blog know that I have a sense of humor, I don’t take all of this so deadly seriously, and I say things like “Not making me feel special” with a big grin. It’s kind of a joke, you know? Just a silly way to make my point.
But the point remains that there is value in personalizing your query. It’s not a must, just a suggestion.
I realize you’re trying to get an agent, and it behooves you to query as many agents as possible. I get that—and I encourage it. But once you actually have an agent, it’s a business relationship that is hopefully going to be long and will at times be intense. My clients are not just numbers or words-on-a-page to me. They’re people. They’re people with whom I spend a lot of my time—whether on the phone, or in email, or working intensely on their books or proposals, or working intensely on their contracts… etc.
The people I choose to represent have to be people I think I can successfully have a long-term business relationship with. So from the very beginning, right from the first query, it helps to see that someone has already done a little research and thinks I might be a good fit. I don’t choose just “any old writers” to be my clients, and I hope you wouldn’t be looking for just “any old agent” to sell your stuff. So that’s why it makes sense to know who you’re querying, and at the very least, to write me a letter that addresses me by name (even if that’s the only thing you know about me.)
But that’s just me, and other people have their own ways of doing business. For some agents, the project is all that matters and they probably don’t care about the relationship so much. Many authors may also feel this way.
I just wanted to explain that, as much as I’m looking for great projects to represent, it’s the people I interact with. So I like it when we all treat one another like people.
What do you think? Is there value in personalizing your queries? Or do you think we ask too much?
Late-breaking addendum: Please, folks, understand that “personalizing” the query doesn’t need to go beyond addressing the agent by name, and making sure ahead of time that they do accept queries for the genre in which you write. It’s not that hard!
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent