Query letters – do you have personality?

I’ve discovered that Twitter offers a ton of great stuff. I happened to stumble across one twit…tweet? that had a link to a wonderful blog – agent extraordinaire and all around nice guy, Chuck Sambuchino. If you don’t read his blog, you should.

His post from last week is about a query letter that breaks the rules. Successfully. Go read it and come on back. No, it’s ok, go on. I’ll wait. Hey, beagle, put those purses down and mix up a pitcher of margaritas, willya? Oh! Ok, you’re back? Good.

Admit it, you loved the query letter, didn’t you? I sure did. Like agent Sara Megibow, I read a lot of query letters, too. Lots that break the rules as well. The exception is that those rule breakers aren’t effective because they either have no idea what they’re doing, or they’re trying to hard. This query letter is very carefully crafted and well thought out…which all query letters should be, right? But beyond being well crafted, it has personality.

Writers will always capture an agent or editor’s attention if they show their personality – genuine, not forced. Think about the ways you can make your manuscript’s personality  shine through in your query letter. If you suck us in, it doesn’t matter what kind of rules you’re breaking because we’ll willingly follow you anywhere.

The thing I also loved about this query is that she talks about why she is the perfect one to have written the story, and she included a title comp. Is it necessary? Not at all, but it’s effective. She also shows her familiarity with the agent and whom she represents. Again, not necessary, but effective because she makes it apparent that she’s not racing down a line of agents and blasting it out. She’s careful, thoughtful, and did her research. In short, she makes Sara want to work with her. And who wouldn’t? Heck, I don’t even do YA, and I find myself jealous of Sourcebooks signing her.

I know query letters are the author’s biggest reason for sphincter pucker, but if you can just relax a bit and adopt the tone and flavor of your manuscript and convey that into your query letter with personality, then you may find that you have better results.

Additionally – and this has nothing to do with the blog post – remember that you can’t possibly fit in all the subtle nuances that take place throughout your book. It’s an overview. I recommend leaning your pitch toward the stuff that takes place in the first parts of your book – which is your setup of your plot. Reason being is agents and editors are going to ask to read your first three chapters. If your pitch covers info that takes place later in the book, agents and editors will confused and wonder where in the heck is the stuff you talked about in your query letter.

So take a look at your query letters. Do you think you’ve injected some personality into it? How do you think you can accomplish this? What kind of roadblocks are you hitting as you think about adding personality to your query?

5 Responses to Query letters – do you have personality?

  1. gutsywriter says:

    Fantastic query. I do follow Chuck’s blog, but did not read this post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lev Raphael says:

    A dose of reality about agents, even if you get one. I know from a prize-winning author friend that a highly influential and well-respected agent in New York just spent hours on the phone with a raft of clients telling them she cannot sell a single one of their novels because fiction is not being bought in New York. I used to think having an agent was the ultimate proof of being significant, and a guarantee of scoring a touchdown. Not so.

  3. You’re absolutely correct, Lev. Having an agent doesn’t define greatness…only your book can do that.

  4. NinjaFingers says:

    And don’t forget why you wrote the book. Not necessarily in the sense of telling, although that can be good too, but there has to be *enthusiasm*.

  5. Pelotard says:


    That was the sound of a penny dropping.

    My MS is written in first person anyway. Now, I’m going to make the protagonist write the query letter.

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