I’ve never done online dating before. The more I query literary agents, however, the more I understand what internet dating must be like.
You see, in order to get published with a big publishing house, a writer needs an agent. And in order to get an agent, a writer has to write a query letter.
I think that query letters are the literary world’s flail, used to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Interesting incidental meaning from this analogy: No matter how hard you flail, you can’t turn chaff into wheat. It’s just not possible.)
You see, in less than one page, you have to write 1) A hook to your story, 2) A personal message, and 3) A short bio.
So I went to the query shark and read her archives. All of them. They were incredibly helpful.
The part of the query letter that I’m having trouble with (and the reason I feel like I’m internet dating) is the personal part. It’s hard to strike a balance between, “You are one of many agents I’m querying,” and “YOU ARE SO HOT WE ARE PERFECT FOR EACH OTHER!”
Because, the thing is, I do love the agents that I query. I look them up. I read interviews with them. I see what kind of books they like and what kind of books they sell (and how fast they respond, hehe). If I query them, it’s because I think they’re brilliant at what they do.
Sometimes, I’m afraid my personal messages look like this:
“You worked in the movie industry and still make lots of movie deals and that’s perfect because my book would be a great movie!” (pretentious, presumptuous, and probably a whole lotta other “pre’s”)
“You want a YA sci-fi thriller and that’s just what I wrote! We are obviously a match made in heaven!” (proposing on the first date)
“You used to work at Penguin from 1999-2010 and I love their books! And you just sold a book that is just like mine but not really! And I saw in this interview from 2011 that you have a dog named Picard which is crazy because when I was growing up, I had a dog named Riker!” (STALKER!!! OVERSHARE!!! Run, little agent! Run!)
So what’s the literary equivalent of being interested, but not desperate? When do compliments become flattery? How do I politely say, “It would be a dream come true if you were to request a full. Because I love you so much. And the books you represent. And I know we haven’t met yet, but I’m sure we’ll be best friends. Because I’m very professional, as you can see.”?
A little help?