We’re on a roll this week with advice questions! Before I get to today’s please know that if you have any questions about publishing, querying, submissions, lit agents, or anything that I might have an opinion on, I’m happy to take your questions! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Ask Me Anything on Tumblr. Now on to Samantha’s question!
A couple of years ago, I finished a book and queried. I got a fair amount of partial requests and a couple of fulls, but no deal — not surprising, because I was an idiot and managed to make a lot of clumsy mistakes in the process. However, despite that, there were a few agents that sent me back spectacular critiques, notes that I am genuinely grateful for and have helped me craft my latest project. Last time I queried, I was a sophomore in high school — not something I advertised — and those critiques were a concrete reminder that agents are not just terrifyingly awesome, but also often kind people. I’m editing a new project now and eyeing queries again, and I wondered if it’s appropriate in the query to mention/thank the agents for their previous interest. I realize that it comes across as sucking up, and I don’t want to do that. I really did appreciate the help, and that help is why several agents stand out in my mind even now, multiple years late. I’m worried that even a brief mention, though, will make me come across as a schmuck. So — is it inappropriate to mention prior correspondence?
Absolutely not! In fact, I specifically mention in my submission guidelines, “If you’re an author who is sending a new query, but who previously submitted a novel to me for which I requested chapters but ultimately declined, please do say so in your query letter.” I may remember your name, but giving our past correspondence a shout out in your query letter will help me place that name in connection with your prior material — and if an agent liked something enough to give a detailed critique or notes, chances are they will remember, and will likely pay a little extra attention to your new query. Plus, though we may not have time to respond to every piece of correspondence (though many of us still do), a “thank you” note always goes a long way.