Whether or not you should drop an author's name in your query is a subject of debate. Some literary agents like to know that you know the market, know who's selling and what's hot. Some think it's ridiculous because no two writers are alike and they'll be the judge of how marketable your story is.
When you've done the research and found a book you think is similar to your style or the tone of the story is close to what you've done, you'd want to send a query to that author's agent, and drop that particular author's name.
You know that the literary agent liked the manuscript because they sold it, so there's no problem with mentioning some popular writer that the agent might not care for. Here's a book, you say, that will resonate with fans of Author X, and the agent goes, that's one of mine, and isn't this budding novelist brilliant.
Karen Joy Fowler wrote The Jane Austen Book Club, which was wildly popular, even though I didn't read it. Imagine that. Her latest, Wit's End, was on the shelf at the library and I picked it up, headed straight to the acknowledgments, and found Wendy Weil listed there.
The cover flap provided enough information to suggest that one of my manuscripts might be right up Ms. Weil's alley, a bit quirky, a little humorous, so I started to read the actual novel.
It was unreadable. I re-read the first chapter and still didn't know what the story was about. The quirkiness of the writing left me confused as to who was who and what was going on. After trying to finish it at least three times, I gave up.
But that won't stop me from querying Wendy Weil when I put together a decent query letter for the manuscript that's stewing away, waiting to ripen and get edited down to perfection. I've got an author's name, the literary agent tied to it, and that takes care of the personalization section of the query letter. It's all about fiction, isn't it.