I’m getting ready to send out another batch of queries and I was wondering about personalizing them. You know, you go through the blogs, interviews, twitter and MSWL, and most agents like the personalized flair. But at the end of the day, I just don’t know what to put. I’m not being refereed to by anyone, and with the exception of a few agents, I can’t compare my style/genre to other writers they represent. Other than that what else can I put? The “we would be a good fit” bit would is generic. I’m conflicted. I want to stand out, but I don’t want to be gimmicky.
For me, personalizing is sort of hit or miss. Sometimes it works really well, but most of the time I’m not particularly impressed by it. I get so many queries saying, “I read X book that you represent, and think that you would like my book because it’s similar.” So that doesn’t stand out very much to me. It’s not bad, per se. Just not very eye catching.
I do think that comparisons that go beyond style/genre are more effective. In particular, I think character comparisons are useful. For instance, somebody may say “Book X that you represent has a sassy female protagonist. My book also has a sassy female protagonist.” I mean, phrase it a little more elegantly, but something like that would get me thinking, “Yeah, I do like sassy female protagonists. That’s cool that they know that about me.” It’s more specific and more grabbing.
Another thought: if you have been stalking all their social media, use that to their advantage. If you’re pitching them, my assumption is that they said something that makes you think that they may like your book. It’s fine to say something like, “On your blog you mentioned that you wanted this thing, and my book has that thing.” In fact, it’s actually fairly impressive, and it shows you did your research.
For example, I was at a conference where an agent said he would like something that was “Romance plus something else.” This is great for me, since I’ve been pitching my manuscript as “Pride and Prejudice. But with more murder.” And when I get around to querying him, I’m definitely going to mention that. If your book matches up with something from their MSWL, do a major happy dance. It’s called a wish list for a reason. I’d love to get something from my wish list hand-wrapped and tied with a bow.
Also, just remember to think of personalization as the cherry on top. Nice, but not necessary. I’ve requested many manuscripts that didn’t attempt to address the specific tastes of the agent I work for.