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Things I like in a query

I've been getting a lot of queries the last couple of weeks, and good on al of you who are submitting to me! Keep them coming!


I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the good things, the parts of query letters that have caught my eye and made me want to keep reading. This isn't a comprehensive list, of course, and what's here may or may not apply to you, but hopefully it's helpful as you're querying.


Appealing to me as a person

This is one that I've seen on a lot of various websites and advice on how to query. The reason why this exists everywhere and why I'm talking about it, too, is because it's true.


There are a number of ways you can find out who an agent is and what they're interested in, beyond the books and genres they represent. Just looking at me and my brand, I've got this website, my agency website (TheTobiasAgency.com), my Twitter, and my profile on ManuscriptWishList.com. Telling me that you sent me a fantasy novel because I'm interested in receiving fantasy novels doesn't really say anything. If you're querying me, my first assumption is because it matches what I'm looking for. But if you tell me that you saw I love Sandman Slim and your project is similar or you also liked it and it informed your work, all the better.


Do we have a history?

This one's a bit trickier and less common, but if you and I have a history of some sort, that's also helpful. Have we met at a con or writer's conference? Have we interacted with one another on twitter and had a dialogue? Maybe we met at a publishing party way back before covid-19 was a thing. Let me know!


Comps

Comps. The thing that so many of us love to hate. For those of you who may not know, comps are comparative titles: books that are similar to the project you've been working on.


If you can accurately describe your manuscript in terms of how its similar to other books in the market that I've read or am familiar with, then you give me a clear understanding of what I'm about to read. This can be really helpful, especially if I have a high opinion of the books you are comparing to.


Quick aside: you don't have to use books as comps. If you are writing a manuscript and it's similar to a show or movie or some other media, that's okay, too.


But, and there's always a but, it doesn't do you any good to say that you are a mix of Pierce Brown's RED RISING and Frank Herbert's DUNE (this is an example I made up, not one I've actually received). Those are both mega-bestselling books, which, for better or for worse, is rare. If you're going to tell me that your manuscript is going to be a bestseller because it's similar to other bestsellers, all you've really done is show me that you don't understand the market. There are SO many books out there, you don't have to compare yourself to the top 1%.


You don't actually need any of this

Here's the thing, you don't need to have any of the above traits. I've offered rep to projects that have none of these things, and some that have all of them. All I can really say is work on your projects, keep writing, keep editing, and do the best you can.

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