12.26.2006

HH Com 463

I am seeking representation for a humorous novel titled The Next American President. It's the story of an average American, Michael Keebler, who writes an essay that's published in Newsweek. His ideas make him an overnight sensation, and the government is pressured by popular sentiment to send him to the Middle East where he speaks on Al-Jazeera, average American to average Muslim. Coincidentally (or not), peace breaks out, and Keebler is given most of the credit.

He decides to capitalize on his fame, not by writing a book, but by starting a third party and running for president. He has no expectations of doing well, just thinks it’ll be fun, but he has underestimated America's desire for fresh leadership, and finds himself running neck and neck with the major parties. He and his running mate, Hannah Carpenter (another average American without political experience), appear on such shows as 60 Minutes, The Daily Show, Today, etc. The people love them. The Democratic and Republican leaders hate them. It all culminates in a suspenseful election night, with Alaska becoming the new “Florida.”

The book has about 50,000 words, WAIT! DON'T HANG UP! It's largely dialogue, so it has the page count of a longer book, and it has more laughs than most humorous books twice its length.

A lot of political books have come out recently, but few are novels, and I believe this book’s timeliness and the “likeableness” of its characters could make this a successful project. Thanks.


An average guy gets elected president...uhhh....is there a plot/conflict/antagonist in this ballot box?

And I know of course you've figured out how an average guy gets on the ballot in all 50 states. You thought it was a given? uhh...no.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...the government is pressured by popular sentiment..."

That sounds a bit far-fetched already.

Anonymous said...

This should be a screenplay, especially if it is largely dialog. It's been done at least six times I can think of, and very recently,too. So you might find yourself too far behind the bandwagon to leap aboard. Sorry.

Poli-Sci Man said...

No one has to "figure out" how an average guy gets on the ballot in all 50 states. It's a process several people manage every four years, even if most people only notice the two from the major parties. It takes a few people in each state collecting signatures--and not as many as you'd think.

KingM said...

This is the sort of book that can only work as a comedy or one of those lame, preachy Hollywood flicks about the politician who does the right thing.

If it's funny (as you say) your query letter should be side-splitting hilarious, or nobody will believe you can pull it off.

The book has about 50,000 words, WAIT! DON'T HANG UP! It's largely dialogue, so it has the page count of a longer book, and it has more laughs than most humorous books twice its length.

You have to cut this. At once.

Write a longer book if you have to, or just accept that it's a short book and take your lumps. I don't think explaining why the conventions don't apply is going to help you. And once again, don't tell us you're funny. Be funny.

Anonymous said...

That sounds a bit far-fetched already.

That could be said of, oh, about 100% of the hooks Miss Snark is requesting pages on. Who wants to read horror, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, romance that's "fetched"?

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I just saw "Man of the Year" with Robin Williams and at the core it's almost exactly the same thing.

The part I couldn't buy was the spending millions of campaign dollars for fun.

Anonymous said...

The problem is Keebler's initial essay either has to be actually groundbreakin and profound (and is it likely to be? Probably not, or you'd have sent it into op-eds yourself) or it has to be god awful and part of the joke that the American people fall for it, which it doesn't sound like you're going for either. Anything else, and it's just irksome that this guy is getting recognition for saying obvious things that a million people have said before him.

Author said...

And I know of course you've figured out how an average guy gets on the ballot in all 50 states.You thought it was a given? uhh...no.

Apparently you thought it was a given that I hadn't figured it out? Uh...no.

The 11 states with the most electoral votes total more than the 270 needed for election, so it's hardly necessary to be on the ballot in all 50 states (though my candidate is). Eleven states will do--as long as you win all eleven.

Anonymous said...

What Miss Snark said. And if that weren't enough--which it is, in spades--you keep piling on.

The government sends an average american (whose sole credential is an essay in Newsweek) as an envoy to the Middle East? That's it?
And do a deal with al-Jazeera, as if it were the BBC? nuh-uh.

When improbable political comedies work, it's because certain basics are accurate. "American President," "Dave," "Protocol,"
"The White House Mess," "First Hubby," "Distinguished Gentleman," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Man of the Year" etc. don't create alternate worlds and rules, they exist within them, albeit in Joan River's-face- stretched-thin fashion.

Readers are eager to suspend disbelief and buy into a far-fetched story if it promises a good romp and is deliciously well-written. But their willingness to go along for the ride requires some basics. You can't just disregard the fundamentals of how-things-work.

It may be that your hook is simply a poor representation of an otherwise fixable plot. Political reality is rife with bizarre technicalities that could deliver up at least semi-plausible scenarios for an unlikely candidate. You might have better luck making Keebler a senatorial or gubernatorial candidate (See Jesse Ventura or Mel Carnahan for inspiration.)

Ryan Field said...

Maybe someone needs to club me with the clue gun, but it's supposed to be far-fetched...nothing was more far-fetched than the storyline from Heaven Can Wait, but it sold. Need I mention The Five People You Meet In Heaven. And if a dead guy can come back to earth and solve the age-old question of life after death, a writer should clearly be able to find a way to get a character on all 50 ballots.

But watch out for this: "It's largely dialogue". THEY don't always like to see a lot of dialogue...learn how to balance your dialogue with narrative. Many editors will simply look at pages without even reading them and see too much dialogue and reject you based on that.

Anonymous said...

First you give her/him a 250 word limit to hook you, then you complain that they don't include a civics lesson on how to get on the ballot? That alone would take 250 words. I'd read this, but then I'm a political junkie.

Michele said...

50,000 words? Sounds like nanowrimo. If it's mostly dialogue, maybe it needs some action and description.

Anonymous said...

A Newsweek essay gets you THAT far? Dang, I think I'll write me one of them thangs and get all famous an' stuff.

I suggest reading Leonard Wibberly's classic political satires, and while you're at it track down "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home," by William P. Blatty. (Yeah, that Exorcist dude.) http://www.amazon.com/John-Goldfarb-Please-Come-Home/dp/0553142518

Ploitical satire has to be really REALLY good to hold up over time, as those books will show.

jamiehall said...

There is already a third party. It is called the Green Party*. You might want to change that wording.

*See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Party_%28United_States%29

Inkwolf said...

Well, you say it's funny, but the 'hook' is very straightforward and serious, so I can't tell whether it would be worth reading for the laughs. A funny quote or two might hint at what you have under the hood. Unfortunately, the bare plot description sounds more like an armchair politician's Mary Sue fantasy...

desert snarkling said...

I'd have to do the math, but is it actually possible--in a way consistent with the current political makeup of the country--for the results to fall in such a way that it all comes down to Alaska?

Minnie Bittertiddoff said...

Maybe you could make the character a woman, a minority and a mother (NYT says momlit is going to be really big)...who is running against a republican with a secret panty fetish and a democrat with OCD who only wears shoes two sizes too large because he freaks when his toes touch the tip of the shoe.

I don't think it's far-fetched, and think it could be funny if you make it outrageous stopping short of John Waters.

Virginia Miss said...

For a humorous novel I wouldn't be too concerned about a far-fetched premise. I would want the query and hook to be funny, so I suggest you revise this to reflect your style.

In your query letter, I suggest you omit: "it has more laughs than most humorous books twice its length."

Also omit: "A lot of political books have come out recently, but few are novels, and I believe this book’s timeliness and the “likeableness” of its characters could make this a successful project."

Anonymous said...

"There is already a third party. It is called the Green Party*. You might want to change that wording."

Um, scuze me, but you're forgetting the libertarians, the communists, socialists, and a number of other small parties.

lauowolf said...

Whether or not the story is far-fetched isn't the major problem here.
It doesn't so much matter that the premise sounds implausible (which it does).
The Mouse That Roared is implausible, and it works.
The issue is whether the thing actually is humorous.
Which, given this sample, I doubt.
So far, we know that he's a regular guy and things happen to him.
In and of itself that really doesn't get you far.
Leave out most of the plot summary, and show that this thing is funny -- no one's going to take your word for it.

Anonymous said...

Author--If you've figured out a way to plausibly get your hero on the ballot in all 50 states, well then, great. But arguing the point after the fact misses the point of the exercise, which is to hook the agent in 250 wds. Obviously, you didn't. Big deal. That's not a reflection on your ms., it's a reflection on the hook's ability to entice a particular agent to ask for pages. That's valuable info if you want your manuscript to get a read.

Your manuscript may be sensational and handle all the implausibilities brilliantly. If so, devise a hook that does it justice. Something to the effect of, "With the help of a seasoned political strategist with a score to settle with The Suits, Keebler exploits a little-known technicality in the ballot access laws to..." I dunno. You get the idea. Just give us reason to believe you've handled the hiccups.

Anonymous said...

Many "third" parties get on the ballot every election. They seldom create a blip on the radar. Apparently, the candidate in this book wins or comes close. Hopefully wins, as otherwise it would be annoying.

I wouldn't mind reading about the equally pathetic Dems and GOP having to deal with an actual threat to their usual duopoly, so this hooks me, at least temporarily.

I see no reason a hook for a comedy needs to be funny, any more than a hook for a horror novel has to be scary. But if you say it's a comedy, it better be funny fast, like before chapter 2.

Anonymous said...

To me, America's political problems are caused by the political ignorance of the average Joe. In Australia, we had an average Joelene, Pauline Hanson start up the One Nation political party whose ignorance of economics, cultures other then the Australian white lower-middle class, world history, and current affairs was breathtaking. Her party did have some initial electoral success, as every racist and his homophobic mate voted for her, but then the party imploded under the weight of stupidity of its candidates.

remaining nameless here said...

Dear Miss Snark,

We already have an average-guy president. Well, average intelligence. Well, maybe below average intelligence, and above-average wealth--and those balance each other out to average. Don't they?

Author, nothing about this seemed funny. I must have a bad case of the political blahs. But there's no spark of humor in the hook you've given us.

Good luck

xiqay said...

Austrlian Anon,

What a story One-Nation is/was. I was so freaked to listen to the diatribe while they were having successes, and I'm not Australian.

What scares us can make for good story telling-especially if "conquered" in the end, even by self-implosion.

Anonymous said...

This made me think the first couple sentences better be side-splitting: "and it has more laughs than most humorous books twice its length."

I mean, you're up against (on my bookshelf alone) Christopher Buckley and Philip Roth, here. I love political satire, and I'd love to see you succeed, but this seems to borrow liberally (ho ho) from "Being There" and a bunch of recent movies, and when you tell me how funny you are, I instantly doubt you.

Agents and editors hate being told how to respond to your writing.