Sep 29, 2009

Introductions- A Comment Worth Sharing (not a query)

This came through as a comment gj left on a query. I'm re-posting it here because it was really intended for the readership at large and I think there are many good points. - Rick

I'm doing this as a separate comment, because it isn't particularly addressed to this author, but to the world at large:

I've been seeing the "let me introduce you" line for the past year or so, which makes me wonder if some expert somewhere has suggested it as a nice way to start the query, something different from the standard, "I am seeking representation for ...." line.

Now, I'm not an agent, so I could be entirely wrong about this, but the "let me introduce you" line just sets my nerves on edge.

Two reasons. First -- you're going to do it, whether I want you to or not, so it's sort of repeating the query itself, which is the SHOWING version of TELLING that you're going to introduce the story. Simply saying you're seeking representation is, in theory, redundant, but it doesn't make the agent (the person receiving the letter) complicit in your action, it doesn't seek permission for you to seek representation.

That's not the big issue for me, though. I think it's that "I'm seeking representation ...." becomes invisible after you've seen it a few hundred/thousand times. All you need to pay attention to in that sentence is the title, genre and word count. It's a little like "said" as a dialogue tag: it does its job, and does it invisibly, so unless the author is doing something really wrong with it, you don't even notice it. For a person reading dozens, perhaps hundreds, of these in a week, every little bit of simplification helps.

OTOH, when you start with something different, the individual words suddenly become visible. The reader has to work at comprehending the whole sentence, not just get to what the reader cares about (title, genre, word count).

There's a time and a place for creativity and thought-provoking phrases. In fact, one school of thought suggests just jumping straight into the story and skipping the "I'm seeking ..." line, which you can reserve until the end. But if you're going to start with the title/genre/etc., that opening sentence is not a good place to be creative.

I think.

Again, I'm not an agent, just someone who's read a lot of queries in the past few years, and can imagine what it's like to get a hundred of them a week. Wow them with your story, not the mundane parts of the query.

In my opinion, the best ways to begin the query (after a professional Dear Mr./Ms AgentSurname), is a) your hook and description of your story, or b) "I chose to query you because..." with a brief and relevant personal note that demonstrates your diligence. The next paragraph should be your hook and description of your story. - Rick


scott g.f.bailey said...

I agree with gj and Rick. In fact, I didn't use the "I am seeking representation.." construction at all in my successful query, which started like this:

Dear Mr. Kleinman,

I write to you because in your interview with Algonkian Workshops you said that writers should write what they care about. Also, you represented Layne Maheu's "Song of the Crow" and Jon Clinch's "Finn," which I find intriguing.

I am the author of stories and essays appearing in Lost, The Surrogate and The First Line, and this is my first novel.

"So Honest A Man" is a completed 80,000-word novel...[pitch follows]

I followed my agent's suggested "about you/about me/about the book" format that I got from his web site.

Agents know you want their representation. You don't have to tell them explicitly.

scott g.f.bailey said...

A further comment: gj gives excellent advice regarding queries on this site. I am actually surprised to hear that he's not an agent, because he's so spot-on in his comments.

MattDel said...

The way I see it, this site exists to help us with the Hook and what comes after. The tailoring to the agent part of the query is important, but is something that has to be unique each time.

The Hook and what comes after that, however, can be replicated throughout all your queries.

I might be way off-base with that theory, but that's my thought.

Rick Daley said...


Thanks for sharing the intro from your query. Knowing the preferences of the agents you query is of the utmost importance.

I also agree that gj's comments have all been noteworthy, thanks gj for your participation. Scott's advice ranks high in my book as well. said...

My bet is that as a screenwriter, Rick, you choose to go with option a.

Victoria Dixon said...

I've seen Janet Reid (Query Shark) rail on this. Especially in email queries, why waste space on your one page query to tell the agent something they already know? You wouldn't be likely to contact them if you didn't want representation.

Laura Martone said...

I fully agree with gj's take on the query intro. Although my query is certainly not ready for its agency close-up (much less my novel), I've always tried to begin with a hook (some attempts have just worked better than others). 'Cause Victoria's right - agents already know that you're contacting them re: possible representation. No need to repeat such information.

Crimogenic said...

Very interesting post and great perspective from Gj and Rick.

Tabitha Bird said...

i have to agree with this post. No need for the introduction line and frankly if I am an agent reading 1000's of these a week, I just want people to get to the point. What is the book about people? Break it down for me... they would be my thought anyway.

Lady Glamis said...

Excellent thoughts. Thank you!