Pandering to Agents in your Query

Holy shit. I titled this post “Pandering to Agents” and then, just to be totally safe  (because I know how to mix a cocktail of intellectual insecurity, neurotic obsessive anxiety and a dash of adult ADD that can knock your socks off!) I looked up the word pander. This is what I found on dictionary.com:

noun Also, pan·der·er.

1. a person who furnishes clients for a prostitute or supplies persons for illicit sexual intercourse; procurer; pimp.
2. a person who caters to or profits from the weaknesses or vices of others.
3. a go-between in amorous intrigues.
verb (used without object)
4. to act as a pander; cater basely: to pander to the vile tastes of vulgar persons.
Ok. Meanings #1 and #3 are NOT what this post is going to be about… although that might be quite an entertaining post! And I may use vulgar language (but WTF! why not?!) but I definitely have good taste. Just saying.
This post is actually about connecting with an agent in a query (see meaning #7 under connect).
In my last post, I talked about what to definitely include and what to definitely not include in your query. The things that I listed that you should include are very basic things. The things on the “not to include” list, although meant to be amusing (did anyone chuckle? even a little tee hee?), you really, really shouldn’t include. But what else?
Now remember, this is just my opinion, not some iron clad rule from The Rulebook of All-Powerful Agents, but I think that keeping it simple is best. It’s nice to know that people are Googling me and looking at the JDLit website and reading this blog and checking me out on Facebook and Twitter and my website and Publisher’s Marketplace. Well, actually it’s a little bit creepy but…
What I can’t stand is when people take my words and put them in their queries. Like this:
I know you love to learn something about another time, place, or culture while engrossed in a gripping story, and my fiction novel has a lot of underdogs and outsiders with magical realism and a distinctive voice. It’s a legal thriller romance, and although there are no lesbians or gay men in it, I would be open to revising it and putting some in, since I know you are committed to representing books that include, are about, or are geared toward people in the LGBT community. Although it’s not yet complete, I’ve attached the first 50 pages.
If you’re trying to make a connection with someone you don’t know, don’t just parrot back to them what they’ve said about themselves. That’s lazy and kind of annoying. If your manuscript really is about an underdog or an outsider, include one sentence in your short synopsis that shows that to me. Show don’t tell. I’m smart enough to get it. If you don’t actually know what magical realism is, please don’t say your manuscript employs it. As soon as I start reading it I’ll notice you were blowing smoke up my skirt. And if your manuscript really doesn’t have any gay characters in it, just skip it, ok? It’s really not a deal breaker!
What I’m trying to say is this: Be yourself in your query letter. And be professional. Include the important and necessary information. Follow submission guidelines. Query the appropriate agents. That’s it. Your manuscript should speak for itself. If it can’t, then you need to go back and work on it until it can. And then write a simple query.
For people who live in the tri-state New York area, registration is open for my 2 hour workshop at Hofstra University, Writing a Top Notch Query, on March 10th.
And yes, I know that’s a PandA. I couldn’t find an appropriate picture of a pander to use.
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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Pandering to Agents in your Query

  1. One thing you SHOULD do when attempting to pander to certain agents, however, is mention Labradoodles. Everyone loves a Labradoodle.

  2. Keep the tips coming! Reading and making notes 🙂

    And sure ’nuff, that there’s a pander. A pitcher of a pander! You dun guuud. (written in my worst southern accent ever! I’m from the south, therefore I can make fun of myself now and then).

  3. *blushes* I think I did this. I’m glad there was a panda picture included to cheer me up! Off to revise my query ….

    • Brave of you to go and tell on yourself here! You know, it’s not my intention to write whiny, complaining, “it’s so hard being an agent,” and “writers are so dumb,” kind of a blog. All over the internet writers get advice to research agents and query the ones who represent what they write. You can find multiple websites which advise you to let the agent know that what you write is what they read. I think what writers who are new to querying (or who have been querying unsuccessfully) need to realize is that your query letter is your first opportunity to show the agent that you can write. So cutting and pasting the agent’s words into YOUR letter isn’t that. Stop blushing and smile at the pretty panda. Now continue with your revision…

      • Thanks Linda. I agree, there’s so much info or how-to’s around, it’s easy to get completely confused! I seem to have nailed a covering letter to UK agents but not the query to US ones. I’m blaming the British reserve 🙂