Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Autoschediastical Query Letter!


\ aw-toh-SKEE-dee-az-tik-uhl \  , adjective;

1. Something improvised or extemporized.

Come, that's all I have to say, for if people don't take an interest in things, I shall not eliminate sesquipedilianisms in an autoschediastical  fashion to amuse them.
-- Mark Lemon, Henry Mayhew, Punch, Volumes 62-63, 1872

Oh, and Happy Belated Easter!

...Lately I’ve been poking around trying to get a glimpse at some successful query letters.  I’ve always been curious to see what certain authors said to get their foot in the door.  The only problem is, most example queries are from unnamed or unknown authors.   

I’m looking and looking and looking, and Stephanie Meyer’s query is nowhere to be found.  Dan Brown’s?  Nada.  Stephen King’s?  Negatory.  This one guy who works at a local bakery?  Nope, but he did bully me into buying an overpriced loaf of bread.

I asked some published acquaintances of mine to show me the goods, and believe it or not, they avoided the topic or said they were “missing”.

This begs the question, can a query letter be embarrassing, especially the more famous you are?  The answer, or lack of, gives you an indication of how awesome writing queries actually is.

But anyway, the main problem I have with query letters is there’s not a correct way to write them.  Some agents say, “No, don’t do that!”  Other agents say, “You have to do that, don’t do this!”  And some other agents say, “They’re wrong—the answer is 5.”

Truth is, it gets confusing.

Sure, there are certain things that look more aesthetically pleasing, {LikE-ThiS}, but when it comes to content, who knows what agents are looking for on any given day.

One thing is certain though—if you’re sending out query after query and constantly getting rejected, then it’s probably time to try a new approach.

I tried something different with one of my novels.  Thought of the process as an experiment.  If I got 100 rejections, oh well.

I ended up writing about six different versions of my query ranging from completely serious to completely outrageous.  The serious queries were tailored toward each specific agent.  They also painted an easy-to-follow outline of the plot and included my full list of writing credentials. 

If anything, I had the most faith in the serious queries.  Besides, I molded most of them using the advice given by specific agents, like the famous Query Shark.

And then for the last one—the only query that nabbed me some agents (two to be exact)—I said             this              you           little                        butt.  People who dish out advice about query writing would’ve said, “LOL, you did everything wrong.”  Others would’ve said, “LOL, they’re right.” 

I said that comment which ended with “butt” and came up with this:

Dear Mr.                ,

I really like your yellow box on the                   website, and I highly enjoy all the information within…(Sorry about this upcoming transition, but it’s too hard to add a personal note into a form query letter without sounding awkward.)

What if an author wrote a story about vampires?  And then they added werewolves?  And zombies?  And aliens?  Demons?  Pirates?  Underwear models?  Elves?  Clams?  A snuggling warf?  A seven-year-old boy?  And one Shoe of Unstoppable Force?

Could this story potentially rock the world’s socks off?  Would you disagree if I labeled it satire YA with a splash of black humor?  If I gave you two numbers, 48,983 and 50,000, which one would you think was the length of my story?  And if I said 50,000, but it was really 48,983, and you wanted to represent me, but then you found out about my lie, would you dump me?

Would you fault me if I told you what people have been saying about my unpublished masterpiece?  What if I told you that my mom said, “You’re wasting a college degree?”  Would you think my work was actually great because most people who slap gushing comments into a query submit work that is the exact opposite?  Could this novel be the exact opposite?  Does reverse psychology actually work?  Will I find out?

Are you asking yourself how many questions can one person include in a one-page query?  Or is this the “norm” now?

Did I forget to mention what my book is about?  Should I even try and squeeze the story in since I only have half of a page left?  Yeah?

What if I told you my novel,                                                   , is about an Ultra Beast EXPLODING from the earth and killing everyone?  Would you think, what’s the point, isn’t everyone dead?  But then what if I told you the Ultra Beast, since he’s immortal and invincible, hates his life because he’s the only one left alive, so he creates a demon to go back in time to protect the seven-year-old boy who possess the Shoe of Unstoppable Force, which is the only thing that can end his existence?  But what if I also told you aliens were coming for the shoe?  And that all the other stuff I mentioned earlier, like zombies and vampires and werewolves, they’re all going to be crammed in there, too?  Did I mention there’s a love triangle between the boy, a girl and a teacher who’s actually eight, because she has that disease where her body ages four times faster?

Is there enough white space in this query?  Was I suppose to indent?  And did I go overboard with using two spaces after a period opposed to one?  That could’ve saved space, right?  If this were paper, and I had to print my query out, a lumberjack would surely be disappointed in me, wouldn’t you think?

I forgot to tell you a little bit about myself, didn’t I?  What if I told you I’m a mathematician and that this question is number forty?  Does it really matter how many questions I asked, because all I really want to know is if you’ll be my agent?

                                                   , part one in a series of at least thirty, is finished and ready for your review.  Believe it or not, I am actually “professionally” published.  I took a chance with this query, but really, the paperclip kept popping up in Word and made me do it.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Casper Pearl

And here is one agent’s response:

Dear Casper Pearl,

Thank you for your entertaining query. I'd be happy to take a look at                                                  . Please send it as an email attachment, and please let me know whether other agents currently are considering your novel.

I look forward to reading your manuscript.



What am I trying to say?  If you’ve done the work to become good at what you do, then trust yourself.  The only thing that can really kill your chances is a lack of confidence.  With the above query, I knew I was breaking almost every set rule.  And that’s the point—I knew.

So when it comes to the crapshoot that is query writing, the two things you should focus on are experience and confidence.  With those, and a bunch of luck, you’ll be getting nabs in no time!

But really, does anyone know any famous query letters?  I'd love to read a few.

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