The Agent Query Epiphany
Mostly, it’s people who have a product they’d like me to advertise on my blog. But occasionally, I get emails asking for writing help. Recently, I received an email from a wannabe published author—and got more than I expected.
I got an epiphany.
The email started with a long explanation of the writer’s struggle to get his work published, and a plea for help. The manuscript had been attached (and please, wannabe published writers, don’t send an attachment to someone you don’t know, hoping to get feedback. Nobody I know will open attachments under those circumstances) and an impressive author bio had been included, as well as contact information. But one very important piece of information wasn’t included: why the person had contacted me.
I racked my brain, wondering if I’d met this (local) writer at one of a half-dozen regional conferences. Was he a friend of a writer friend? Did he read my blog? Had we met at church? A restaurant? What was our connection?
I had no clue. In the end, I figured this writer had randomly sent out a general cry for help. Possibly, he’d sent a whole slew of random emails. And you know what? It annoyed me a bit, that he gave no reason for why he’d reached out to me. That’s when I had my palm-slapping-forehead epiphany.
I finally understood how frustrating or annoying it must be to agents when they receive a generic query. When it’s obvious that a wannabe published author has sent the same query to dozens of agents without a thought as to why the writer chose the agent.
Not that an agent has time to wonder over each and every query. I know that time-crunched agents will often skip the query and go straight to the pages. But if they like what they read, I’m sure they go back to the query. And I can see now how very important it is, to explain why you chose that agent, why you think you and the agent would be a good fit, or what kind of connection you might have.
Maybe you met at a conference, or you love the same books, or you love the books they’ve represented. Heck, maybe the connection is just that the agent represents women’s fiction and you write women’s fiction.
Even something that basic is enough to let an agent know you took a little time to be choosy. Because we want to feel special, I think, whether we’re a high-powered agent—or just an everyday plodder, sitting at her computer in her jammies.
P.S. If you have a manuscript and are querying, you might want to check out this swell spot for what agents (and editors) are looking for (and maybe mention the connection when you query!).
~Cathy C. Hall