I know it’s tempting, but you absolutely should not send out the same query to a hundred literary agents. Personalizing may take more effort, but by telling an agent why you’re targeting them, you’re showing that you understand the industry, that you take your book seriously, and that you’re probably a good fit for them. Here’s how to do that…
I talk a lot about finding the right agent for you, rather than just any agent. You want someone who gets your vision, who knows how to sell books like yours, and whose personality gels with yours, which means finding the right agent is a pretty personal task. That said, there are a few consistent qualities we should all be looking for:
If you want to sell your book to a major New York publisher, you need an agent, no question. As with anything in life, there are rare exceptions, but do you want to drastically narrow your chances in hopes of winning the lottery? If so, why? A good agent has relationships with editors and publishers, they know who’s looking for what, they know how to sell a book, they know how to negotiate a good contract, and
You’re trying to juggle a dozen things at once – an unforgettable first line, a fresh voice, an original theme, complex characters, mood and tone and conflict and a sense of mystery, and so on and so forth. In so doing, there’s a good chance you’ve inadvertently lost the most important element of all – clarity.
Once upon a time, I was a magazine editor with an inbox full of pitches from writers and publicists. Many of the senders probably submitted those queries and imagined me waiting for them to come in, reading through each one carefully to decide whether or not it had merit.
Here’s what was really on my mind each time a new pitch pinged through:
When I was an aspiring writer, I often heard other wannabes bitch about the unfairness of it all. You know the conversation – it’s not about the writing, it’s all about who you know. The only people who get ahead are those with trust funds, who went to Ivy League schools, the types who rub elbows with New York gatekeepers and can slip agents manuscripts over drinks…yadda yadda yadda. Stubborn idealist that I am, I refused to believe them. I’d been raised by movies that told me “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”