Nathan Bransford gives us some soothing info about one of the most stressful situations known to the writing life – writing a properly helpful query letter, one that doesn’t get too personal but is indeed personal enough. Like so much of Nathan’s writing, this is pure gold.
by Nathan Bransford
Authors often gnash their teeth at the nearly-universal advice that you should personalize your query letters. It’s time consuming to research agents individually, people don’t know what to say, and there’s something about it that just rubs people the wrong way.
It pays to personalize. Just do it.
In this post I’ll explain why and give you some tips on how to do it (and how not to overthink it).
Why you should personalize query letters
It’s not about kissing up.
When I was a literary agent I read thousands upon thousands of query letters. And one thing you notice when you’re reading this many: there’s a correlation between the good queries and the authors who personalize.
The author who goes the extra mile in crafting a professional, personalized query is likely also the type of author who has taken the time to learn the business, polished their manuscript before submitting, and isn’t cutting corners.
Sure, agents should give sufficient attention to every submission, and they largely do, but I always found myself paying a bit closer attention to the ones who were personalized. There’s a correlation between personalization and quality.
When you are querying a literary agent you are essentially proposing to go into business with them. Just as it generally helps to personalize a cover letter when you’re applying for a job, it helps to personalize a query letter.
Here’s how to go about it….