1.16.2006

Why Agents are Thin Lipped Humorless Party Poopers

Dear Miss Snark,

Here's a query, one I wrote for fun several years ago....

Cheers,



Miss Snark
Top o' the Line Literary Agency
Avenue of the Universes
New York

Hi there Miss Snark,

How would you like to represent a future Noble prize winner in literature? I am sure you would! Actually, I can't promise I would win that prize because of all the politicing involved, but I can promise you that anyone who represents my novels will make a bundle of money and become quite famous in his own write (get the pun?). And that could be you!!!!!!!!

In all seriousness, I have just completed a novelistic work of fiction that not only is going to shatter all box office records, but is going to be a major semenal work in literature. The title is THE GODS OF THE BRIDGES AND THE WOMEN WHO CROSS THEM I am sorry that I am not able to provide a synopsis, because it is too risky. There are idea thieves out there, maybe even in your office. You see, I have surmounted all the genres and created one of my own that I call "fusion fiction". I am in the process of copyrighting this new genre. However, one hint (are you ready for this?): the novel is written entirely in the future indicative tense!

Now, Miss Snark, I know your are chomping at the bit, and would like to read the novel like IMMEDIATELY, but first, please send me a pre-paid DHL postal packet for delivery of about 5 pounds of manuscript. To help you save on your freight expense, I have printed the manuscript singlespace, and on both sides.

Hey Snark, here's to mutual fame and fortune!

(signed)


P.S. I'd save this letter for the history files.
P.P.S. Don't worry about that blood splotch smear on the other side of this letter, that's just a squashed mosquitoe

Ok, this is funny, right? yup, hilarious.

The next letter is from a man who included "reference letters" from US Senators (form letters responding to his letter about the book) and the information he wanted $50,000 from Simon and Schuster for them to convert his website into a book. He wanted to leave the website up and convert it into a paid site...but generously offered S&S a cut of the take.


This is funny, right? yup, hilarious.


Too bad both of them aren't jokes.

Which leads us to why agents seem to be humorless in their query letter responses. More than half the time, you aren't joking.

29 comments:

jessicacrockett said...

I may have seriously misunderstood this post Miss Snark, or I may have even be hallucinating, but you did say these are not jokes, right?

Yikes.
Yikes, yikes, yikes.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark... Are you having us on?
Methinks these just cant be real. Nobody could be that nitwit.

jessicacrockett said...

A further thought, Miss Snark... You really should save that letter for the history files. It is destined to be a classic.
Claiming to have the next best seller under your belt is one thing, but I never imagined a writer could be _that_ delusional.

Molly said...

I can't believe these are real.

Bernita said...

"fusion fiction?"
...hmmm,by your reaction, I guess it bombed.

E. Ann Bardawill said...

Dear Future Nobel Prise Whiner In Literature,

I am afraid I must decline your delightful offer to “become quite famous in his own write” because I am female and would prefer not to Miss Represent myself. (Get it? Huh? GET IT??)


A “novelistic work of fiction that not only is going to shatter all box office records” will certainly be a first in the film industry, I am sure. As well, the title; ‘THE GODS OF THE BRIDGES AND THE WOMEN WHO CROSS THEM’ is far to similar to a book I’ve already sold called, “GODAWFUL BRIDGEWORKS AND THE WOMEN WHO FLOSS THEM”.

I wish you the best of luck in copyrighting an entire genre, and know in my heart of hearts that a book written entirely in future indicative tense will indicate a tense future for you.

Thank you for the DNA sample of your blood via the mosquito. I will take it upon myself to run you through an FBI Dangerous Offender database. I shall have you checked for STDs as well. I know you won’t mind a bit. It’s all part my cheerful and professional cervix.

However, in future (indicative tense or otherwise), when surmounting genres or creating major semenal works, make certain you always wear a condom.

Someone who digs through the wastepaper basket of Miss Snark
Top o' the Line Literary Agency
Avenue of the Universes
New York

P.S. Pre-paid DHL postal packet for delivery of about 5 pounds of manuscript are available online at
www.bhru4real_wtf.com

That Girl Who Writes Stuff said...

Soooooo . . . I shouldn’t have put in my query letter that if the agent in question makes me famous they can suck my toes for free?

Crap.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Damn, I never get such fun letters. Mine only contain death threats and cease-and-desist orders.

Ooh, ooh, I know. With all my contacts, I'll become an agent! Then I'll get an office high atop the tallest four-story building in Petersburg, the absolute center of the publishing universe. (Actually, there are higher buildings, but I don't want to risk nose-bleed.) I can take walks around the, uh, city park. (It's a whole block long and a whole block wide!) I could even kidnap, er, adopt a killer squirrel and make him wear something chic like a, um, kilt! Then I'll be sure to get all those great letters, especially the ones with fudge or chocolate. (Did I mention I take chocolate from strangers?) Oh, and the glitter which I can toss down on the city parade, if they ever have one.

Just kiddin'! ;)

Elektra said...

Erm...I'm pretty sure the first letter WAS a joke.

Horace Hamster said...

Jokes? Dunno. I remember a Tor editor saying she'd received submission cover letters that said, "My novel is better than most of the crap you publish."

Writers are mad. All of 'em.

M. G. Tarquini said...

“GODAWFUL BRIDGEWORKS AND THE WOMEN WHO FLOSS THEM”.

Bardawill,

It's pretty close to impossible to get sushi out from between the keys...

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Bardawill said: "when surmounting genres or creating major semenal works, make certain you always wear a condom."

I just spewed chunks of oreos on my brand new, white keyboard.

You're a bad, bad Bardawill. Now stop blogging around and go write something for The Bunions.

Saborra said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I've only been reading since New Years and it's already the highlight of my day.
I looked all over for where I could send you questions. I didn't see anything, so I hope that posting them as a reply will not label me as automatic-nitwit-for-life.
I am struggling with the biography paragraph of my query letter(s). I keep getting conflicting advice from published authors in my writing forum. I hope you can clear this up for me.

Does it matter if I say I'm a secondary English teacher? I've been told, "Yes, this is pertinant information," and "No, they'll just think of the (obnoxious) adage 'Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.' It will work against you."

My only publishing credits are two short stories that have been published in separate e-zines, both of which are no longer avaliable. Should I mention them at all, and if so, in how much detail?

I write fantasy and have a background in physical and cultural anthropology. Anthropoly has been extremely helpful in creating a fantasy world, but I've been told not to mention it because it isn't relevent.

Please help me.

Anonymous said...

If these are real, I'm so happy you posted them, Miss Snark. I always make the mistake of assuming everyone else is better, smarter and prettier than me. Now I know I'm at least better and smarter.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

This reminds me of the guy who lists on ebay. "Bid on this rare book. Of course I'm not telling you the title. You have to guess. But it exposes your hopeless religion, and you should buy it for the 500, 1500 or 2000 dollars I ask. Oh and no returns!"

Yup, they come in all stripes, flavors, and persuasions. My sympathies and commiseration.

Rachael

Anonymous said...

Of course agents get letters like that all the time. I know one who got a "since you haven't responded to me in the week since I've submitted, I'm going to assume that you have stolen my work, and am starting the process of litigation. cc. lawyer."

This was for a query.

Also, hang out at any romance writing board. Once a month you get the nitwit who says, "I'm going to give you Harlequin people something you've never seen before. A romance novel where they DON'T get together at the end!"

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"A novelistic work of fiction"...Miss Snark step away from the cigarette lighter. Repeat after me..."I will not set my hair on fire!"

Yikes, now I understand why agents drink!

Brady Westwater said...

Our Dear Misss Snark said that BOTH of them are not jokes; hence one them of the could be - and is a joke.

Whil some parts of the first query could real - albiet, not very many, due to internal inconsistencies in style and educational level - the 'future indicative tense' phrase alone instantly identifies that query as coming from Miss Snark's electronic pen.

Richard Lewis said...

Hold on, folks.

The query is a spoof. I wrote it several years ago to try to break *every single rule or suggestion* I could find in the “how to query” articles I was studying. Matter of fact, it was the first “query” I ever wrote, which I titled “The Query from Hell.” Apparently the one thing I forgot to do was to attach the required grain of salt.

Miss Snark knew it was a spoof—she just didn’t think it was funny, because, as she points out, agents regularly receive queries like this one (so me sending this to her is somewhat like letting off a firecracker next to a Secret Security agent during a presidential parade). Every day in every way I learn more and more.

Which brings to mind a story idea. A demon in hell querying an agent. Although this too probably really occurs.

Richard Lewis said...

PS: Ann Bardiwill's riposte was genuinely funny -- got me laughing too. Can I post it elsewhere, Ann?

Miss Snark said...

actually I think both are very funny. One intentionally so. (And Ann's is hilarious too.) My point is that "gosh this parody is a hoot, thank's for the day brightener"..the response to both, is going to be well received only by one of those queriers.

The second one is an actual query letter. No, he's not kidding around.

You can see from this comment tail If you don't know you can't tell the difference readily.

M. G. Tarquini said...

You realize, Richard, do you not, that making such requests only encourages Ms. Bardawill? Ah, well, the damage is done.

Beth said...

Maybe it's just me, but...the first letter appeared to be an obvious parody, and the writer did say it had been written "just for fun." What am I missing?

-Confused in Carolina

E. Ann Bardawill said...

And what, MG, are you implying by that crack?

**sniffs into lace hanky**

Anonymous said...

I actually have spoken to the 2nd query person, as he's bound and determined to publish his book--that's if we're speaking of the same exact person. As he called my office as well.

Truly didn't understand that I don't care if any senator endorses his book. Maybe he'll catch on someday on what works, and what obviously doesn't.

Elektra said...

I always feel a but more optimistic when I read queries like that second one...yes, agents get a hundred a week, but maybe a few of them are just automatic no's, like that one.

Anonymous said...

The leggo ego post reminds me of this one, because the ones who wrote these querys surely are delusional enough to not realise they're, well...
Anyways, do you get that a lot miss snark? Ego i mean. If you have more of these hilarious querys share them! We demand to see the worst.

Liz Jones said...

Dear Miss Snark,

Have you ever considered marketing a compendium of bad query letters?
We'd snap'em up like hotcakes, and not just because we're thumbing through to find our own queries.

Of course, you'd want to change the names to protect the identities of the innocent, and change the content to protect yourself.So basically, you'd have to write a whole new batch. And people would still probably hit you up in court for their cut of the riches.

But it could be fun. I would buy one.

PS. I think you better go copyright this idea quick, before anyone steals it.

PPS. I always submit my manuscripts online to avoid the squashed-bug thing. Dozens of senators are standing by with the attachments to prove it.

Pepper Smith said...

Ah, Liz Jones beat me to it. I know I'd buy a copy of the book if you ever got around to it.

Someone pointed me toward this site just a few days ago. I don't think I've laughed so hard in a long time. Thank you, Miss Snark.