How To Make Each Query Letter Personal

tulips on tableYou’ve written a hook to draw in the reader. You’ve summarized your story in a paragraph or two. You’ve ended the letter with a bio that makes it clear you are the only person to write your book. You received great feedback from online forums. Your critique group loves it. So it’s time to send your query letter off to all of the agents you selected, right?

Not quite yet.

First, make sure you know the agent’s name and spell it correctly. From everything I’ve read this is every agent’s pet peeve.

Second, you need to find a way to let each agent know why you would like them to represent you.

As you look through your list of agents you are going to query, think about why you chose them and make some notes (For tips on how to choose agents for your short list type Agent Query in the search bar above for previous posts on the subject). You may have chosen some of the agents on your list over another agent in the same agency. What was the deciding factor?

One important way to learn about agents is to read the books they represent. While researching in this way, you may discover that an agent represents an author you admire. If so, this is a great way to personalize your query letter. If you get really lucky, you may find a book the agent represents that is similar to yours in some way. A one to two sentence compare and contrast is the perfect way to show you’ve done your homework.

Another thing to add to your query is how your book fits with what the agent is looking for. Look at the agent’s blog, look for interviews, look for videos from conferences on youtube.com, look at their page on agentquery.com and publishersmarketplace.com to find the kinds of books they want. Mention their specific requests that pertain to your book and then offer your book for consideration.

Finding the right agent is all about patience. You not only want to sell your book and get it into the hands of readers, but you want to create a long-term business relationship with someone who will champion your work. Once you’ve put in the time to decide on the agents you want to query, let them know why you think they are right for you and your book.

Like the rest of us, an agent doesn’t want a bunch of form letters in the mail (email). Let her know that you’ve chosen her based on her merit and your belief that she will find the right home for your book based on her past sales, and you are much more likely to get a response.

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Querying and the Journey to Representation

Squirrel choosing a nut

I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut, but which nut is the right nut for me?

As I mentioned yesterday, I have thrown myself into querying my chapter book MY MONSTER IS BETTER THAN YOUR MONSTER.

I’m very grateful for the many online tools I have at my disposal for researching agents and tightening up my query letter. I thought  I would share the sites that have helped me so far.

Agent Query – Here you can research agents by genre. You can hone your search to only find agents who are accepting queries, accept email, and/or are members of AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.)

Agent Query Connect– The forum community of Agent Query. This is a great place to interact with other authors and get feedback on all aspects of your query.

AAR online – The website for the Association of Authors’ Representatives. Like Agent Query, AAR is searchable by genre. All of the agents listed here are members of AAR and are expected to adhere to their code of ethics.

SCBWI‘s The Book – Members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators have access to The Book which has a section of Agents by Agency. I like the way the information is listed.

Janet Reid. Literary Agent – This blog has a lot of great information about writing Query Letters

Jane Friedman – An in-depth article on query letter writing

I hope you find these tools as helpful as I have.

Best of luck in your search for an agent.

Marketing: Societies, Associations, Meetups and Clubs

A tiny shiny hummingbird on a branch

Like this tiny hummingbird, our books need to shine to be seen.

I apologize for neglecting you last week, dear readers. I received the fully copy-edited version of my chapter book and dove into choosing agents to query and revising my query letter. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, querying is a nerve-wracking full time job. Today, I posted my second revision, after many helpful critiques, on Agent Query Connect and hope I am getting closer. But that is for tomorrow’s topic.

In the past I’ve looked at writing societies and associations and didn’t see past the expense to the value. Now that I have two self-published books to promote and another that I’m trying to get agented, I joined both the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I’m also really enjoying a biweekly writer’s social meet-up and many online clubs.

So, what are the benefits?

SCBWI: SCBWI is an international society with local chapters. Once a member, you have access to current information in every aspect of children’s book writing, illustrating and publishing. That alone is worth the membership price.They also offer many tools to promote your work and connect with other professionals. They have conferences and an online members’ bookstore.

PNWA: They have a member library to show off members’ work. As a member, you get a discount to their convention (which I’m thinking I might attend this summer). You can attend meetings from home on a conference call when you don’t have the time to drive out to a meeting.

Meetups and Clubs: These are great places to make personal relationships with other authors. I’m hoping the aforementioned are too, but I personally have found meetups and clubs to be a good place to ask questions and get feedback. You can also see what topics are important to other authors and learn from their experiences.

An important part of marketing is getting your book into people’s hands to create word of mouth. Meeting people through local associations, societies, meetups and clubs can help you get the word out.

Agent Query Progress

A small break in the clouds.

A small break in the clouds

For once, I felt I was making some progress in my search to find agents to query. Then, the moment I was sure I had found someone and would get my first query letter out today, to my complete horror, her blog said she wasn’t accepting queries at this time. I clicked back to her agency page and there it was under her picture in red letters, not accepting queries. I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had noticed that before I started researching her further. At least I hadn’t read a bunch of books she represented before finding out she wasn’t accepting queries, this time.

Today, unlike most days of my frustrating agent search, I have found someone who looks interesting. She’s interested in writer/illustrators for middle grade fiction, which excites me. A while back, I read that editors liked to use their own illustrator, so a writer was better off not sending illustrations with the story. However, after reading that this agent wants illustrations, I’m going to get to work on the drawings to go with my story, at least a couple, and send them in with my query. I’ve been wanting to draw my monsters anyway, and I’ll need them if traditional publishing routes don’t work out, so this day just got a whole lot more fun!

Anyone have any tips on making the agent search easier?