“Do some research on the company you are targeting.” This classic advice given to job seekers also applies to those seeking an agent, and with the internet that research has never been easier.
No reason not to have a handle on a potential agent’s submission requirements, the types of manuscripts being sought, if she is even accepting unsolicited submissions in the first place. Some agents want email. Some want snail mail. Some want to be left alone. Why waste time, stamp money and tunnel your carpals by submitting to someone (or many someones) who won’t read past your letter’s salutation? (Remember the “parts of a letter” diagram from fourth grade? The salutation is the “Dear Mrs. Letwinski” part.)
The web can be an even bigger help in fleshing out an agent’s special interests. Interviews abound; many agents now blog providing immensely valuable information that will enable you to narrow your search and quite possibly tailor your query. What would you rather read, “Dear Agent, I am submitting my manuscript “Bloodhounds, Bagels and Bacarat” for your review” OR “Dear Agent (and of course you’d be using the agent’s name. Spelled correctly!) I was reading an interview you delivered at the annual meeting of the Veterinary Association of America and noticed that in your youth you bred bloodhounds.”
Will an agent offer you a contract on the strength of such a letter? Nope. (You didn’t think I was going to say yes, did you?) The point is you’ve shown that you’ve done some research and are submitting your query to someone who might very well have more than a passing interest in your book’s topic. There are no guarantees in this business. It’s one part sweat, one part luck and ten parts bloodhound. Hedge your bets. Do the research.
Before you send out your next query, check out these blogs: