Outback Snarkhouse

Here in Australia the publishing of literary fiction is dying a slow painful death (for several reasons that I won't go into but that have a lot to do with market forces).

A friend of mine who is an excellent writer - of literary fiction - has given up sending her novel to the miniscule number of publishers here who might be interested. I suggested she try for a US agent, via, of course, a query letter which I have been attempting to help her with.

My question is - how do you make a query for a literary novel sound great? There are no car chases, wisecracking main characters, serial murders etc. Do you focus more on character and theme? Or only send to agents who will also look at a couple of chapters of the actual writing?

Yes, those wobbly minded Australian publishers are not publishing literary fiction cause it doesn't sell. Silly them.

The way to write a good cover letter for literary fiction is as follows:

Dear Agent:

I found your name in Writers Market and it says you read literary fiction. Do you actually sell any? If so, I would like you to take on my novel DryAsDust which features Hortense and Herbert Haiku examining their navels.

Lest you think this is a self involved, MFA graduate type of novel, rest assured it is not. I have never darkened the door of any writing program, and in fact I'm querying you because my entire country has given up reading literary fiction entirely (Tim Winton doesn't count of course).

Look I'm from Australia. Think Thorn Birds meets Vin Diesel, but yanno...fewer swinging dicks.

Yours truly
Quantas Querier


Anne Merril said...

Oooh, Snarky ;)

I have to say though, literary authors do not have much of a profile in Oz. Erm, come to think of it, I can name only a handful of Australian authors, literary or no.

We have lots of poets though, that should count for something...

Here's an interesting link, http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/lit.html , listing Australian authors. 1 page. How pathetic. You know what it is? We're all too busy chasing jumbucks to put into our little tucker bags to do any REAL writing.

What's really amusing? There are a lot of Aussie authors from Westeran Australia and Tasmania. Must be the air down there.

Simon Haynes said...

For the snarkling: If you're a West Aussie resident, or the book has a WA theme or setting, check out Fremantle Arts Centre Press. They took me on (take that as a good or bad point in their favour!), and my novel is the only SF title on their list of 400+ books. 90% of what they do is literary, and aussie literary at that.
If your book isn't set in WA, just replace 'Sydney' with 'Perth' and bob's your dingo. (That's not a serious suggestion, btw.)
FACP might be small press, but their titles are distributed by Penguin outside WA. Excellent availability - I can attest to that personally.

Anonymous said...

Tim Winton! My hero! *faints*

PS There's no U in Qantas. Sorry about that.