Direct Address When Writing a Query Letter to An Agent

Readers, let me tell what what NOT to do when you’re writing a query letter to an agent:

Dear Ms. Kole,

You are an aspiring garbagegirl in Brooklyn who is allergic to flies. And your mom says you have to go to beauty college when you get out of high school. Your world turns upside down one day when a faerie vampire crashes through your bedroom window…

writing a query letter to an agent, how to address a query letter
‘Look at this beautiful handwr– HEY! I’m not a garbagegirl!’

Writing a Query Letter to an Agent: My Pet Peeve

This is a <sarcasm>fun</sarcasm> new spin on my absolute pet peeve: the rhetorical question query. And the use of second person writing in general, when it’s not earned or warranted. I don’t understand this technique for writing a query letter to an agent… and there are several examples of it in my slush. Did some blog somewhere tell well-meaning writers that this was the new no-fail query fad?

Ditch the Second Person Writing When Writing a Query Letter to an Agent

I’ve got news for you: this isn’t how to address a successful query letter. I understand it’s meant to be arresting and pulse-pounding, it’s meant to grab me and never let me go and all that junk, but here’s the reason it bugs me: I want to read about you and your work. LEAVE ME OUT OF IT!

The example up there is one I wrote. But it’s not too far off from what I’ve been seeing. And honestly? Instead of thinking “Wow, that sounds cool,” I immediately think: “I am NOT a garbagegirl, my mom does NOT want me to go to beauty college and there’s no way in heck that a faerie vampire is crashing through MY window without picking up the repair bill!”

And you don’t want me to be thinking about ME when I’m reading YOUR query, right? Didn’t think so. (Read more query letter tips!)

Struggling with how to address a query letter? I’d love to be your query letter editor and help you figure out the appropriate tone and voice when writing a query letter to an agent.

5 Replies to “Direct Address When Writing a Query Letter to An Agent”

  1. You’re probably not too far off in your guessing (if you’re getting in a handful that are like this) that someone somewhere on a blog out there said this was a great idea. Who knows! But now the news can be spread to counter it. Great blog, by the way, just found it.

  2. Hi Mary,

    It certainly sounds like a very frustrating trend for you to deal with. But what if the *book* is written in second person? I thought the query was supposed to give you a feel for the writing in the book? Obviously, this is not your thing, but might it be someone else’s? (I know, hard to imagine, right?) And hey, on the up side, you need read no further (and waste your time) on this particular book or author.

    Btw, I am really enjoying your site. Thanks!

  3. Beth — Very good point. Of course, if the book is written in second person and that’s something interesting that I want to look into, I’ll keep reading. But this is a 2nd person lead to a query for a book that is written in first or third person. I have yet to see a book written in 2nd person, with this query lead or without.

    Once I see some premise — if I even suspect that it must be The Book — I will overcome any number of pet peeves and personal annoyances. I should probably make this clear in a post at some point or another.

  4. You make a very good point, Mary. I can understand why this comes under the category of a pet peeve. When I read the post, it took me a moment to understand what exactly the writer was saying. I am wondering why the use of the second person in a query. To be honest it sounded quite irritating as though you (the agent) was being asked questions regarding the story.

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