Riff: Thanks for Backing Me Up on That, Mr. Maass

Finally, I have proof, straight from an agent’s mouth that it is not a good idea to compare yourself in a query letter to a best-selling author. This has always been a tactic that screams “amateur” to me. And now, in an interview with Writer Unboxed’s Therese Walsh, agent Donald Maass tells us why:

Q: Is it arrogant to compare yourself to a known author in your query letter, in order to convey style? It this a recommended approach?

DM: The problem with most comparisons is that they over-reach. “Fans of David Baldacci will love my political thriller!” Oh, yeah? Try toning it down. Compare to writers at a lower level, or say you’ve “learned” from David Baldacci. That’s more credible. Many new writers are afraid to compare themselves to their true competition, other debut novelists, for fear of painting themselves small. Actually, it works the other way around. An honest comparison locates you on the genre map and starts me thinking about which editors would be right for your project. Calling yourself a “sure-fire bestseller”, on the other hand, just makes your expectations sound impossible to fulfill.

Read the first half of the interview here at Writer, Unboxed.

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1 Response to “Riff: Thanks for Backing Me Up on That, Mr. Maass”


  1. 1 Besu December 13, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I have a lot of respect for Don Maass. Out of the nine rejections on my novel, he was the only one to send me a full sheet (on his own stationery!) that was personalized and signed. It made me feel like he actually read my five page partial and respected me. Most of the other agents sent back generic quarter-sheet slips of paper with poorly copied print.


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