Is it Crap...Cover Letters, part 5

August 1, 2005

Miss Snark, the Literary Agent
Mayor Mike's Metropolis

Dear Miss Snark:

I am seeking representation for my 70,000 word "Alien Underworld" styled erotic futuristic fantasy entitled Beautiful Death.

Ok..what's Alien Underworld styled?
Is that what you're calling Miss Snark's new hairstyle?
She TOLD Mr Pigtail not to use the blow torch.

Back to the query: erotic and futuristic are NOT categories. Well, erotic is but unless you're writing an erotic novel you want to lead with what this is: fantasy.

Without hesitation or mercy, Isabella Thanatos, First Marshal of Athens, kills monsters spawned by a mutating virus introduced by aliens fifteen years ago. Contaminated by an experimental vaccination, she is now transforming into a monster herself. In her search for answers, she is hunted by the Pantheon and the darkest monsters of the Underworld alike.

This is fantasy. You better tell me what's wrong with monsters. Some of my dearest clients actually speak Klingon.
It must be late: I read that as "fire marshal".

Death belongs to Hades, and he scares her more than the monster growing inside her.

what? Does this follow from the paragraph above? Is Death a dog that belongs to Hades?
Is Isabella pregnant or is she channelling Ripley from Alien?

If you are interested, I will gladly send you a synopsis and partial selection of chapters. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!

Enclosed please find: always send writing. Always.
Thank you for your consideration is enough.
I bet you're not going to like what I have to say so we can skip the obvious suck up.

We've seen a synopsis dump in previous queries. You've taken it all out. Moderation in all things of course. We need to see some of WHAT is going to happen and again..why I should give a damn.

Miss Snark appreciates brevity and loves a woman of few words, but you've got some room to manuever here.

More in this case would be better.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Miss Snark!! For once, I actually erred on the side of brevity? I'm laughing. Usually I have the opposite problem.

Sorry for the confusion about who "Death" is. I will address that when I get ready to submit. FWIW, Thanatos is Death from Greek mythology, and she's known as Beautiful (Bella) Death (Thanatos) by the monsters. They don't speak Klingon unfortunately.

This is tremendously helpful. Just seeing your train of thought as you read these queries is a great lesson.

Travis said...

Always send more than the query letter?

I have always assumed that before my letter reaches its intended recipient, it must first run a gauntlet of interns who are tasked to automatically reject queries that do not adhere to an agent's submission requirements.

If an agent asks for a letter and I send three chapters and a synopsis, is my SASE not destined for the "Form Rejection Two" pile?

Please tell us what instructions you give your shit-deflectors.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark:

You will not be able to do this for long. Soon you will be transformed from a highly successful literary agent--not much liked but respected--into a grumpy but much-loved teacher of creative writing.

And you do so hate those pretentious writers' conferences.

Anonymous said...

When I queried my now-agent I included the first six or so paragraphs of my novel, hoping that it would entice her to ask for more. You don't need much more than that for an agent to get a sense of your voice...think about it this way: how many pages do you glance at in a bookstore before deciding whether you want to read a whole book?

Miss Snark said...

Dear Travis...aka Nitwit of the Day.

Did I say to send three chapters and a synopsis??

I said "five or so pages".
That's the difference.

As Anon above said a brief look gives an agent an idea of what you can write.

Most agents read their own slush piles too.
Interns run rife at publishing houses but not at agencies.

For all my bellyaching about slush, I do find people there. Most publishers only accept agented submissions and so dealing with slush is a task of no reward. Not so here.

But...save the three chapters and synopsis for those who ask for that.

A query is a cover letter and a couple pages, five at most.


Anonymous said...

Miss Snark,

On a previous thread, you chastised a poster for wondering about sending a proposal along with a query letter if the agent just says query. "There's always someone who thinks the rules don't apply to them." Now you're saying include 5 pages. Are you saying to do this even if the agent doesn't say to send anything more than a letter?

I like that you're inconsistent, if you are:

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative"

--O. Wilde

Miss Snark said...

I always thought consistency was the hobgoblin of small minds..but Miss Snark has small head so the information may have fallen out.

Generally speaking, a query letter means a cover letter and couple pages to show your stuff.

What agents don't want are reams of paper when they can tell after ten lines that this is crap. It was worse when everyone wanted their pages sent back. Entire generations of postal workers lean to the left after hauling crap out of agent's offices.

This biz is about writing. Agents need to see your writing. An agent who rejects you WITHOUT seeing your writing is someone you want to steer clear of anyway.

Travis said...

Hey, Anonymous (if that is your real name), get your eyes off my Nitwit O' The Day trophy. It's the only thing I've won all week.

Anonymous said...

Afraid I'm just a bit "snarkier" than you-- you said "want to lead with what this is: fantasy." involving a query entitled "Beautiful Death." Neither you nor the author actually has a clue here, it's *clearly* science fiction, not fantasy.

You were right in rejecting this one-- if the author doesn't know the difference, he or she doesn't know the audience, either, and it's crapola. If *you* don't know the difference, how the (insert adjective of choice) are you going to *sell* it?

I am a teacher of speculative fiction: i.e. fantasy, SF, magical realism, etc., and I would give the author’s query and your reply a resounding “F”, for obviously not even attempting to do your homework.

Miss Snark said...

Well, this wouldn't be the first time one of Miss Snark's fantasies has been shot down as science fiction.

Truth be told, I don't read it, I don't sell it and I don't know the difference between science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction and the State of the Union Address.

I yield to superior knowledge on what category this is.

Anonymous said...

Well, this wouldn't be the first time one of Miss Snark's fantasies has been shot down as science fiction.

Truth be told, I don't read it, I don't sell it and I don't know the difference between science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction and the State of the

Anonymous said...

if you don't read it and don't sell it, how would you know the concept's merit? Just wondering...

Miss Snark said...

You don't have to know the genre to look at a cover letter. Cover letters aren't speculative fiction one hopes.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the construction of query doesn't depend on the genre. Rambling, vagueness, bad manners, awkward writing, all that is universal.
But how can one tell if the story itself is any good or marketable if one has no idea what sells in the genre, what is old cliche, and what is a new and original genre concept?

Miss Snark said...

Well, odd as this may seem, Miss Snark doesn't even hope to find out if the story is any good or marketable by READING THE COVER LETTER.

This post was about cover letters. We did first pages a couple days back.

Miss Snark reads your work to figure that stuff out.
That's why she insists you actually send a sample of it.

Miss Snark's crystal ball is tuned only to determining whether George Clooney will be knocking on her door this Saturday holding champagne and tickets to Paris.