How to do more than “Dear agent”

I’ve seen Query Letters where the author drones on about himself, and then only mentions the agent as “Dear agent.” Despite this author’s best intentions and agonizing hours perfecting his query, that detail presents him as self-centered and lazy. What you want to do with a query letter is try to stand out not only as a skilled writer, but a diligent one: someone who will be good to work with.

One way to put forth this image is to do research; that is, talk about the agent, and limit your description of yourself.

Unsure of how to talk about an agent? Here are a few quick tips to liven up your About Me. Keep in mind that you only need one small snippet of information… one small paragraph is enough to cover all information about the agent and yourself.

1)      Use the agent’s name. This is a MUST.

2)      Read the agent’s website. This can include a bio that you can make a comment on. Are you from the same state? Share similar interests? Etcetera?

3)      Make a comment on a book the agent has represented, either listed on their website or searched (might be listed on Publishers Marketplace or Publishers Weekly).

4)      Look up any recent interviews or conferences the agent has been in. Search their name, followed by the word “interview” or “conference.” Keep an eye on the date of anything you find; you don’t want it to be too out-of-date (say, more than two years).

As for talking about yourself: you don’t need to list your every award or publication — emphasize those of which you are most proud. The phrase “and various others” can cover a lot of ground. And if you have no credentials at all, limit yourself to one sentence.

-Frustrated Intern

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