For those that don't know, I've got a novel I've written that I'm trying to get published. So this month, I'm sending out another round of queries. My usual approach has been to put together a list of a dozen or so agents that I think might be interested in my book, do a bit or research on each to make sure there aren't any red flags (not taking my genre anymore, died, left agenting, serious complaints of possible scam, etc.), then polish up the query letter and send them out.
Usually, if something catches my eye in the research, I'll try to add in a couple sentences about why I chose that particular agent to send to. But If nothing jumps out, I just send the query without it.
Lately, though, I've noticed a trend -every single request I've gotten (full or partial) has been from a query that I had that personalized paragraph in. Now, not every personalized one has gotten a request, but none of the non-personalized ones did. So this time I'm trying to make sure that every one I send has something personal to say. I guess it makes sense, if I can't think of even one special reason why I want this person as my agent, other than they have a proven track record of good sales in my genre, then maybe I should reconsider them as an agent.
So far, I've got about a half dozen or so that I've got really good ideas for personalizing. The biggest problem with some is finding information on them. Some just don't have much web presence at all, even some established ones. It takes a lot of digging to find anything to work with. But there are some great resources out there. I've put some in my links on this blog, like Literary Rambles, which is a wonderful place to find YA agents.
Also, if you are starting to query, I strongly suggest Query Shark, a blog by a wonderful agent who gives a lot of tips on creating a good query. Read the site, read the archives. Do understand this is one agent's take, so YMMV, but it really was a big help to me just in rethinking how I was writing my query. I know after I reformatted my query after reading her site, I got a lot more positive responses from agents.
One thing I've found this time around, in researching agents I've twice found out that the agent I was interested in was about to be part of a query contest through a blog. So I jumped in right away and got my query out there in front of the agent. I've gotten some good feedback and even wound up tweaking my query a bit as a result of comments on those contests. Even got one request for a partial out of it, so far. So look for contests like this, too (for one agent, I just happened to check her Twttier feed for the first time right after she announced she'd be doing the contest, which was at the last minute to enter). They seem to be fun, but intimidating, since everyone can comment on your query, though my experiences have been very positive.
Well, guess I'd better get back to the querying. If anyone has their own tips and tricks for querying, please share them in the comments.