Nitwit of the Day!

One of Miss Snark's colleagues has forwarded this gem to her.

Dear Agent Amazing:

I was wondering if you could read this query and give me some pointers.
This is for a second book I've written and I'm having trouble getting agents interested. This sample query you're about to read is the fifth or sixth re-write I've done. My book has a lot of twists and turns and I'm having difficulty explaining it in one page or less. Thank you for your time and patience.

--(redacted but not unknown!)

Don't write to an agent asking for pointers on a query letter.
Not ever.

If you need help with your query letter there is a place get that. It's called a writer's conference. Go to one. Go to several.

If you don't want to go to a writer's conference, get a book on writing query letters. Then read the damn thing.

This is the the kind of letter that makes agents look like Yertle the Turtle before he was King of the Pond: withdrawn, moody, bitter, and snappish.


-ril said...

Oh, that's good; that's really good. You almost got me. You really are making this stuff up, aren't you?

Sorry, I'm not going to fall for it this time, I'm still gun-shy from the last brawl. Let somebody else take the bullet...

Word verification: nITwiTT

Miss Snark said...

newp. This came from an agent I know personally. Agents send me all sorts of weird ass stuff.

word verification: (and I'm not making this up either, I swear) pod to

Rei said...

My novel has lots of twists and turns as well. My solution? Start off by limiting yourself to *half* as many words as you're going to eventuall allow yourself. You end up with compressed, book-a-minute type stuff. Only once you've met that goal do you allow yourself to add more words. First, you fix your sentence structure, since it's probably very compressed. Then you work on character, not plot twists.

Have to omit characters? Tough. Have to omit major, plot-critical characters? Tough. Realize that you may have to cut everything from the MC's love interest to the denoument if need be. *Nothing* is above being on the chopping block, even the main character.

We all had to make horribly tough choices; you will, too.

December Quinn said...

"Dear Agent,

I've been told my book isn't very good. Can you look it over and give me some tips on how to make it better? You have nothing else to do, right?"


And btw, Elektra's Crapometer is also most helpful. www.crapometer.blogspot.com.

Sue said...

Some writers' boards have threads called: Post your query. These exist solely for the purpose of critque by your peers. Since some of your peers are published, or working in publishing, you can get some decent advice.

Christa M. Miller said...

There's also the cheap way for those of us who can't afford conferences - find a critique group. There are a ton of reputable ones online. I also found some through the blogging community - bloggers who led me to online groups, or bloggers I work with individually. Then, when you do get published, you have a built-in cheering section you can thank in your acknowledgments.

Shanon said...

When I read that, I couldn't help but think, 'Is this writer really querying an agent about how to query an agent?' I was hoping this was a joke.

I really wanted to comment because my word verification was really appropriate: orihdolt. Yes, this person is definitely a dolt. ;)

Jay Random said...

It's a very easy thing to sneer at the clueless, especially if you refuse to provide clues. 'Some writers' boards' have threads on critiquing query letters, do they? I know scores of writers, including many pros, who have never heard of these boards. It would be more helpful to name names.

Critique groups help, do they? Nearly any critique group can criticize stories, but it's a neat trick to find one that knows anything about queries. Again, names would help.

And we should be reading books on how to query, should we? This is fascinating information, because in twenty-plus years of studying and collecting various kinds of how-to-write materials, I had never seen or heard of such a book. Once I was made aware (five minutes ago, by reading this post) that there were such books, it was a trivial matter to find one on Amazon.com; but that did not help me when I did not know there was any such thing to be found. (And I still don't know if the one I've found is of any use, or whether I should flee screaming from anyone who has paid it credence as a mediaeval peasant fled from a leper.)

When the ignorant come to us seeking a cure for their ignorance, we may refuse them for many reasons or for no reason at all, but it does not become us to sneer at them for being ignorant. It is not with malicious intent to waste our time that they apply to us, but because their ignorance has been so little relieved that they do not know of anyone better to ask. If we are to sneer at ignorant people, let us save our sneers for those who are content to remain so.

Peter L. Winkler said...

The best book on query letters I've ever seen is by Lisa Collier Cool. Can't remember the title, but I think it was published by Writer's Digest book imprint. Well worth seeking out. It contains many examples of actual, excellent query letters.

-ril said...

Indeed it is easy to "sneer" at the ignorant. It can also be cathartic and not a little fun. And in a gated community where "tough love" is the underlying premise, it may even be acceptable. Read the warnings on the door; enter at your own risk.

Of course, to "sneer" well is a rarer skill, requiring a blend of erudition and wit to which many of us aspire; short of which most of us fall. Would that we could all be Oscar Wilde in this regard.

Of course, many of the people who contribute here are truly trying to be helpful; it seems ungrateful to "sneer" at them because their answers are not complete enough.

It seems something of a vindication of this site's style that, after two decades of collecting how-to-write manuals, someone has learned that typing "query letter" into the Amazon search engine might turn up a possibility or two. See: there is one less pebble of ignorance on the beach. Granted, we do not yet know specifically which book guarantees the path to success, but there are several ways to discover.

There are also several comprehensive, quality and more serious sites for the education of would-be writers. Shall I list them? No, for many of them are in the archives of this site: that is where I found them, when I looked. Miss Snark, in the past, even conducted a "master class" on query letters, and that, too, is contained within the archives - there for the looking.

I wish I had the wit and erudtion to express myself more eloquently, but unfortunately I am not of that league.

Indeed it is easy to "sneer" at the ignorant. The self-righteous, too, are a convenient target.

-ril said...

Oh, oh...

In my feeble attempt to be witty and erudite, I omitted the most important point of the argument: "sneer" and snark are not synonyms. This site snarks, but it seldom sneers. The eyes may roll, but the lips will rarely twist...