The Agent Game

A viewpoint on publishing

Write your own query

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In a recent blog post, agent Kristin Nelson said:

Seriously though. Sometimes it is difficult for a writer to write his or her own query. The writer is very close to the material and can’t often see the forest for the trees. If you’ve struggled with the query writing process, I don’t think it’s playing unfair to have another person write the query on your behalf, or with you, or revise it for you. As long as you end up with a strong letter that you believe fully represents your work, I, as the agent, will not ask if you wrote your own query letter. It can be your own deep, dark secret.

The problem here, as always, is that some people will assume that because this holds true for Ms. Nelson, it also holds true for every other literary agent.

It doesn’t.

For example, agent Jennifer Jackson included the following in her own recent post (which also includes a great extended analogy about how reading queries is like deciding on a restaurant):

To me, this is also one of the reasons that you should always write your own query. While Agent Kristin said as an aside in her blog post about marketing letters that sometimes it’s hard to write your own query (a point with which I will certainly not disagree), she also said it was fine with her if someone else wrote it as long as it was good. That’s where I will differ. I have a few reasons: (1) No one will know your book as well as you, (2) No one will be as passionate about your book as you, and (3) The query letter may reveal things about voice and personality which can contribute to the overall sense of you as writer.

Speaking as someone who reads a lot of queries, I can definitely say that the last of those points is especially true for me. A query is a chance for the writer’s personality to shine through, giving me an idea of them as a person. A great voice in the query also makes me look forward to reading any included sample pages, and that can be enough to tip me over into liking the project enough to want to read a partial. I want the voice in the query to be the voice of the writer, not the voice of their friend, their critique partner, or, worst of all, someone they’ve hired to write the query for them.

It’s fine to get input on your query, and for some people getting another perspective can be very useful. In the end though, it’s you who are trying to start a relationship with an agent, and it should be you who writes the query.

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Written by incognito

7 January 2009 at 8:19 pm

Posted in Getting an agent

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