A is for Amanuensis

Dear Miss Snark,

Some may call me crazy, but I have offered to help my father find an agent. His day job as a lawyer keeps him pretty busy and although I am busy with my four very young children, I neeeeed to have a project that challenges my brain. Coming up with a diferent animal for each letter of the alphabet is not enough.

That being said, I would like to know if I should explain that I am sending query letters on my father's behalf, or if I should just write them and sign his name to them. Would an agent think a manuscript is not worth reading if the author is not willing to write the query letter? Or would an agent be interested in reading something that is good enough to make a third party willing to do the leg work?

Thank you for your opinion.

Both options ignore the correct course which is to write the letters, have him read and sign them. This is no different than what many admin assistants do each and every day. Killer Yapp in fact has an ongoing correspondence with the poet laureate about the place of doggerel in the literary canon; all letters signed by KY but composed by MS.

An agent doesn't give two shakes of an L is for lamb's tail who writes the letter. Content matters.


Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that one purpose of the query was to give the agent an indication of the submitter's ability to write well (or not write well).

-c- said...

Perhaps Miss Snark's assumption is that a short sample will go along with the letter. If that's not what an agent wants, then yeah, I thought so too--letter is to judge writing as well as content.

But I think saying "I'm writing this for Dad" would be a real turn off. So don't mention it. As a person who writes mediocre query letters, I'm all for anything that gets my first page read.

Jim Oglethorpe said...

I agree. The query also forces the writer to really think about why the work is marketable. A good query letter takes hours to write (or at least mine do!) It would make more sense for your dad to write the query letter. You will have your hands full ID-ing agents and customizing it accordingly.

As for the four kids--bravo to you! I have two and it takes every ounce of energy I have to keep them alive every day.

litagent said...

I agree that I use the query letter as one indication of the author's skills, so it is preferable that the letter be written by the author. Busy or not, the author should draft the cover letter. His daughter can do the research, tweaking the letter for each agent, mailing the letters and following up if necessary.

Anonymous said...

I think it's fine for her to write the letters. I can't believe any writer would think you can accurately judge someones writing from a one page query. All it shows is whether or not you are completely devoid of basic grammar skills. Anyway, if she's sending five pages of his work, then she's not pulling a fast one on an unsuspecting agent.

And good for her for being a helpful daughter!

Anonymous said...

Query I don't mind. Synopsis, I'd rather eat crushed glass. I had 4 kids (still have 2: Damien 3 and Rosemary's baby) Of course, I am a single mother, but if you can whip out a decent query letter while looking after those 4 kids then you need to be writing the manuscript. Hell, I'd hate to see the query that I wrote after screaming at 4 kids all day. Back to daddy. Let him write the query.

Georgia Girl

litagent said...

Well, other agents may feel differently (and I know Miss Snark does) but for me, if the author can't write an engaging and literate query letter, I'm never going to get to the writing. And I absolutely bristle when I get the "I'm writing for my husband/wife/grandmother letters."