4.12.2006

Humor in Query Letters


Not that I have such a book, but I'm curious: Is jest allowed in a humorous work's query letter, or will it always be taken seriously (and thus interpreted as a sign of a delusional author)? I've seen people labeled as nitwits on the blog for making statements in query letters that I thought were meant as faux pretentiousness for satirical reasons. What if it's over the top? For example, would something like the following be taken seriously:

---
ATTACK OF THE FIFTY FOOT POODLE has received glowing endorsements. Dave Barry said, "We're sorry, we're not home right now. If you would please leave your name and number, we'll call back as soon as possible."

John Cleese said, "Who
are you, and why do you keep calling me?"

Terry Pratchett said, "Beep! Beep!
Beep!"

(little note at end: "Certified 100% real jest by the USJA.")



Humor is very very difficult to do well in a query letter. However, your example above would work because of the Dave Barry thing. Clearly that's a joke. Even the normally sober sided and humor impaired Miss Snark recognizes that.

In the Snarkives is a post about humorous queries. A writer sent me a very funny parody of a query. I posted it next to an actual query. It was pretty hard to tell the difference. In fact the parody writer didn't know that I got the joke and was a bit taken aback (or so he said on his blog).

Sardonic and sarcastic and deadpan humor are the hardest to convey. I know this first hand from the blog. I'd advise letting your pages convey the humor and playing it straight in the query.

7 comments:

Inkwolf said...

You know, it's really depressing to try to find out what to put in a query letter.

You read books on how to get published, they all seem to say, "Make your query letter stand out! Do something unique that will make them notice you! Like Emma Lumpkin, who embroidered her entire query letter for "Needled to Death" and became the world's most beloved author of needlework mysteries! Or Elmer Podunk. who had his queries delivered by elephant riders!"

Then you read what agents and publishers say THEY want, and it's all like "Stand up straight! Don't slouch! Don't try to be clever! Half-inch margins or die!! Use colored paper and it's the trash bin for you! Here are the rules, and if you don't obey them TO THE LETTER and toe the line, we'll rip up your query, stomp on it, set fire to it, and broadcast your name to the entire publishing industry as unprofessional!"

Sigh...

Maxine said...

At the risk of being mocked, who is Dave Barry?
All the best
Maxine.

Inkwolf said...

(Resists desire to mock Maxine)

Dave Barry is a famous syndicated humor columnist who is probably best known for his interest in animals that spontaneously explode, making a list of the worst songs of all time, and use of the word 'booger.'

David Baker said...

Dave Barry was an English nobleman who produced some of the most lasting anthropological studies of the 19th and early 20th centuries, among them the twelve-volume "Golden Bough." He was notorious for his lack of humor. I never read him because I hear he was a lousy cook, though I did run into his niece at a cocktail party and she was quite charming. In any case, Ms. Snark is absolutely right...best to simply be yourself without pretension. I follow this rule rigorously.

Cheryl Mills said...

maxine, Dave Barry is a humor columnist. He also has an addictive blog at http://blogs.herald.com/dave_barrys_blog/

word verif: gunwpm

Steorling said...

Ah, inkwolf, it seems you have reached critical mass on the "Jaded-O-Meter". Welcome to enlightenment. You have just crossed over into a little thing those outside the world of writing like to call sanity. ; )

As your self-appointed mental health buddy (yes, we work on the buddy system) let me just remind you too take a deep breath. Now, repeat after me...I am a writer. No half-hearted mumbling, you heard me. Say it again with emphasis..."I am a writer!" Make it your mantra, study the masters,and love what you do. Every time you feel the need for that sigh, take a breath before writing 100 brilliant words and repeating "I am a writer".

And, remember, sane people don't chose the writing life. You really need to nip this "sanity" thing in the bud if you want to be a success. ; )

Mac said...

There are similar 'humourous blurbs' on the box of my screenwriting software:

"Even if you don't own a computer, I recommend buying 'Final Draft'" - J.J Abrams

"After having been there for me at all odd times and hours, Final Draft has replaced my imaginary friend" - James L Brooks

A risky strategy, but it seems to have paid off for them.

Now if they could only get the d!mned software to work properly...

Mac