Am I charming?
It’s a question I never before asked myself. I don’t recall if anyone’s ever accused me of it, either. Perhaps in my teenage years I tried to charm people, because who doesn’t want to be loved and accepted by his/her peers?
Now that I’m older, and I care quite a bit less about what people think of me; charming others is not even the tiniest of my many goals in life. Sure, I want love and respect – who doesn’t? What I’m willing to do to get it is the question. Truth is, not much. I simply don’t have the desire or the energy to schmooze people
ASIDE: Isn’t “schmooze” a great word? It goes great with – and can even replace – charming, because the simple definition of schmooze is “To talk with someone in a friendly way, often in order to get some advantage for yourself” (Per Merriam-Webster).
People are selfish, and I’m no exception. Too often, when someone describes another as “charming,” it’s not always a compliment. The term implies an almost dishonesty, that the charmer is only in it for him/herself – to gain something in return.
Unless the person wants to be charmed, or schmoozed.
Now why would anyone want that – to purposely be “taken advantage of”?
Feeling a bit overwhelmed with writing query letters, I purchased a book called “Rock Your Query,” by Cathy Yardley. It’s a short read at only 61 pages (Nook Book), but that’s its strength. The author’s advice was succinct, and as such took away all the mystery of what a query letter should contain, and what to avoid.
The second chapter focused on the opening paragraph. She suggests that it needs to focus specifically why the writer chose that particular agent. In other words, don’t be afraid to schmooze a bit. Be charming.
The agent in question, after all, wants to be schmoozed. Not to be taken advantage of, per se. The end result is a partnership between writer and agent where they both get paid from the profits of the published book(s).
So now I have to ask if I can be charming. Can I schmooze prospective agents enough to pique their interest?
I don’t know. And perhaps that’s even the wrong question to ask.
If I gained any wisdom from reading “On Writing,” by Stephen King it’s his advice to never lie to readers. They can always tell.
The same holds true with everything I write. All I can do while writing a query letter is to be as honest as I am with my fiction and whatever else I write. Everything else will simply have to take care of itself, because no matter how much I can schmooze (or not) someone, I can’t force them to do what I want. They will either be intrigued enough to ask for more, or they won’t.
I’m reminded of a line in the movie “Trading Places,” where Eddie Murphy’s character said (paraphrased), “What do they want from me, Coleman?”
“Just be yourself, sir. No matter what happens, they can’t take that away from you.”
Charming or not, all I can do is be me, because that’s what I’m best at anyway.