Author’s Comment:

Below is the query letter that finally returned an offer of representation.  (Hooray!)  As you can see, it is not all that different from the one that was rejected 15 times; and in point of fact, it was actually an earlier version of the same, which only went out to three or four agents before it occurred to me that the comment about “current authors” who “work so studiously to avoid the dreaded ‘tropes'” might backfire and have the effect of alienating some prospective candidates (as they obviously represent those current authors).  In the end, there is really no way of knowing how this change may or may not have affected my agent’s decision – after all, this iteration of my query letter also failed a couple of times with other agents.  My guess is that either version probably would have passed muster with Matt, simply because he was the right audience for my book; it no doubt helped that I received a warm introduction from someone he knew professionally, and it likely boded well that he already repped two of the authors I personally consider to be the best in my genre today, but the most important factor was that he genuinely liked the manuscript when he read it.  I therefore don’t think it is overly presumptuous to suggest that any competently written query letter – so long as it did not do anything to actively put him off reading my work – had a decent chance of achieving a similar result.

In any event, if you compare the first paragraph of this letter to the same segment of its successor, you can see how I went about customizing a single root draft for multiple recipients.  Personalizing your emails like this is not that hard, and it is one aspect of query letter writing that really does make a difference – it proves to the agent that you’ve done your research and have selected him/her for a specific reason (just think about how you yourself respond to personalized notes versus form letters) as opposed to simply spamming every prospect out there, which in turn will make him/her more amenable to at least giving your manuscript a read.  And remember, that is your query letter’s one and only purpose.  By itself, your letter cannot gain you an agent – but it can absolutely lose you one if it fails to do that all-important job…

NOTE:  Ack, look at those two errors at the end!  I added that postscript just before hitting send, and was obviously typing too quickly.  Thankfully the typos occurred at the very bottom of the note, and he likely had already moved on to the manuscript, or at least cut me some slack because the rest of it was fairly good – but still.  Not a mistake you want to make.  Don’t do what I did here:  proofread every word!

P.S.  No one send this to Pat Rothfuss, okay?  Now that we share the same agent it’s likely I’ll meet him at some point, and I don’t want to come across as too much of a fanboy…