More on why you might not need a query letter

A previous post answering the hypothetical "say I write like David Sedaris, how do I go about pitching an agent" roiled up some interesting comments.

Let me be address this squarely since my more elliptical answer fell flat.

If you are well known in a medium like radio, agents come after you. Mr. Sedaris had a lot of very very funny work heard on a syndicated radio show called This American Life. I'm guessing he didn't write a single query letter about collecting those essays in a book, or writing a memoir. I'm guessing agents were after him from the moment they could start speaking again after laughing so hard they required oxygen.

Agents are on the lookout for fresh and new. My point about mentioning the radio show is that it is entirely possible to excel in something and draw the attention of agents without writing a query letter.

This works particularly well with deadpan humor. Miss Snark has been shouting orders and issuing instructions for years but it wasn't till she posted it on a blog that someone said "hey, you should write a book". (Miss Snark is not writing a book. Killer Yapp required a confidentiality agreement when he agreed to move to Snark Central).

If you "write like David Sedaris" think about forms that showcase your work. A place I spend some time every now and then is called The Moth Storyslam. I really love these events and I've found some very interesting people there.


Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Dear Miss Snark, this is helpful. It's hard to convey your novel's humor in a one page query without committing the cardinal sin of "telling not showing."

I'm one of those newbie writers, confidently querying away, having written a truly funny novel about a truly un-funny topic, autism. I'm completely unknown, except for the name I share with a certain anal porn star --- hardly the stuff of agents' dreams, at least the ones related to work. An editor suggested a blog, which I've launched. I'm off to Mothville to see if I can earn some cred. Thanks for the map.

Kim Stagliano

Anonymous said...


It's when I read about things like this going on in New York that I truly despair of living in Charlotte, NC, no matter how many times the city council tells me it's a "world class" city.

UrsulaV said...

This girl, location these days isn't nearly as important as it was pre-internet. As it happens, I live in Raleigh, and I had a wonderful agent drop out of the blue based on a body of artwork on-line (with weird artist statements) and a reasonably successful indie comic book. I've never even BEEN to New York, and I've never written a query letter either--and I'm not half so funny as David Sedaris. I just had a large on-line presence, and through a series of peculiar coincidences involving a friend telling snarky stories about her weird artist friend at a romance writer's dinner, suddenly I had an agent whooping in my ear.

Believe me, if I can make it in Raleigh, you can make it in Charlotte. This isn't just a New York thing.

Anonymous said...

Kim, I have gotten a lot of interest in my humor novel by writing a humorous query letter. As in, the letter itself gets laughs. I've got a near 100% positive response on query letters for humor pieces in magazines when I make the query as funny as the piece itself.

I wouldn't recommend a sidesplittingly funny query for a botany textbook, but since your novel is about the humor of autism, why not make the first paragraph about a funny thing the main character did because of his autism?

Kitty said...

This Girl I Used to Know said...
It's when I read about things like this going on in New York that I truly despair of living in Charlotte, NC, no matter how many times the city council tells me it's a "world class" city.

Try living in Painted Post, NY.

Anonymous said...

I've also heard of agents and film producers contacting people after reading good stories in obscure literary magazines.

Anonymous said...

OK, MS, I'll vent, hoping you'll have something to say in response...

I've written 50 - that's right, fifty - books, and for almost all the major publishers....


I can't get agent number one to say hello!

I've got completed work to drop into their supposedly eager hands. Yet... no one deigns to return a call.

Am I missing a secret handshake or something?

Thanks in advance,