Saturday, March 5, 2011

Writing Humor: Top-Five Query No-Nos

Always looking for more information to stock our modest quiver of knowledge, we recently contracted one of our authors, Robert J. Wetherall, to conduct an exhaustive poll among of seven harried literary agents, to understand their pet peeves regarding author queries. Five of them responded (thus our 'top-five' list). Below are excerpts of queries that went out of control and plunged off the narrow road of acceptance:

1) Self-denigration: You’ve written your heart out — now don’t mess things up by not standing by your manuscript.

“To whom it may concern: You probably won’t like this, but I’m sending it to you anyway. It’s the usual life story, and even includes a funny bit where my mom took a hot poker to my bottom for eating the last of the Cheerios. Hope you like it, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t.”

2) Mega-confidence: Opposite of No. 1 ... Don’t overdo it.

“I chose you guys to represent me cuz I heard you were the best in the lit biz. I’ve enclosed half of the first sample chapter to give you an idea of the opportunity that’s yours for the signing. It’s copyrighted, too — so don’t even think of ripping me off.”

3) The Numbers Game: Overwhelming agents with a constant, unending barrage of your stuff doesn’t work.

“I’ve given yeoman’s service to the task of trying to get you to represent me, including hundreds of faxes, emails, tweets, texts, and what not. How about sex? This is my final offer.”

4) Handle with Care: Take the time to show the agent you respect your craft by making sure you’ve prepared your work with dedication and diligence.

“Enclosd pleze find 3 simple chaptrs for my latest book, LUV IN THE RAFTERS. It’s the saga of a family of mice reproducing in extrordinery numbers. Pleze git back to me ASAP as I’m holding my breaths.” [Take special note of the misspellings and typos.]

5) Threats: Directly or indirectly, it doesn’t usually pay to shower prospective agents with dire events, should they reject your literary treasure.

“Remember your Chihuahua Pepe? I’m holding the little mutt hostage until I get a favorable note from you regarding my novel, PETS FOR LUNCH.”

Indeed, these are the kind of communications that cross agents’ desks with surprising regularity. No wonder they’re afraid to open their mail. So, take heed. This business is tough enough without some of you wrecking it for the rest of us.

Robert J. Wetherall
Forever Andrew;
Last Flight Home;
The Making of Bernie Trumble;;

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