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1/6/2014 – AN UPDATE ON THE UPDATE – I have been approving 100% of the comments left on this post. I haven’t hidden a single thing. I have received exactly FOUR pieces of negative feedback on this open letter, three of which were about my use of profane language. Due to this, I feel it necessary to issue this warning: I say ‘fuck’ a lot. If you don’t like it, take a hike because you’re not going to like what you’re about to read. Sorry to be a bitch about it but this is MY blog. That’s like going to someone’s house and ragging at them because of the way they do something in their own home. Had I posted it on YOUR blog, you’d have the right to complain about it. Instead, you’re posting the comment just to have something to say.
GOING FORWARD: WE HAVE ALREADY…
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Everyone knows Christmas is the time for sharing, giving, and also receiving. This year I’ve received so much. I published my first novel and to my surprise it’s been well received. I know if I have any hope to keep receiving in 2014 I need to “give back” sometimes.
The agent query letter template below is my gift to the writing community, which sometimes retweets me and/or clicks “like” on my blog posts and/or clicks “like” on my facebook posts. To the writing community, I’d like to see a little more “and” and a little less “or.” But whatever. That’s just how you are, I guess.
Dear [Agent’s Name],
Recently, I read a book on how to write and sell “fiction” to make money. The book said if I wanna make the big bucks I need a “literary agent.”
[Agent’s Name]: that’s where you come in.
The book went on to say that many literary agents are just failed writers who try to get rich by latching onto the success of people who actually have talent. Now, I know that sounds bad, and trust me, I don’t think the author of that book was talking about you personally. But it has to be true for some agents, doesn’t it? And let’s just assume it’s true in your case and you have no talent. Is that such a bad thing? Why not take me on as a “client,” and we’ll ride the gravy train to riches and fame together? You don’t have to be a failure forever—and neither do I!
The title of my book is [Book Title]. We can change the title to anything, I don’t care. It’s the “contents” of a book that matter, right? [Book Title] is an action-packed, fast-paced, rip-roaring adventure/mystery that’s hilarious yet sometimes sad. And yes, I can take out any sad parts if needed, no worries. I only threw them in to get more women to read the book.
Last but not least, I just want to assure you that I ran spell check on the book like 10 times using Microsoft Word.
[Your Phone Number]
p.s., I’m offering 1% commission for the first 10,000 copies sold, 5% if you somehow sell 50,000, and 10% if we crack 100,000. But if we get up to a million sold, we need to dial things back down to 5%. It’s still a mint though, so relax.
In my experience, books on writing haven’t been that useful to me. The ones I’ve read make a big deal about stories having a beginning, middle and end. Or they tell you things like “write every day” or “write what you know” or “use active voice.” Timeless advice found in any book on writing, but nothing new. Stephen King’s book was good, but mostly because I was interested in Stephen King. He had a few good tips in there, especially on editing out things like “that” and what not.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon a great book recommendation at my favorite editor’s blog (the Editor’s Blog). It’s called, “How not to write a novel.” In it, the authors go over all the things they hate to see in submitted works by the unpublished masses (like me). Not only don’t they pull punches, but they actively ridicule anyone who makes these mistakes (without naming names). It’s actually pretty funny. Just this morning, I got caught off guard by the observation that some writers dredge up vocabulary from “the darkest regions of the dictionary.” This caused me to snort, which caused my hand to jiggle, sending coffee dribbles spilling onto my shirt.
I’ve read about 2/3 since yesterday and I have to say: I’ve done many of the things they’re talking about, at one time or another. Recently, I committed the crime of writing what they call a “benign tumor.” A benign tumor, according to the authors, is when you write a scene that extends the book, but if you cut it out, absolutely nothing happens to the story. Imagine the good guy going to kill the villain and taking 5 pages to talk about a detour he was forced to take through a nice part of town, musing how after he kills the villain maybe he’d move there. Benign tumor.
I was tired of editing so I took a stab at the dreaded synopsis. There’s at least 2 types: brief, and long. Brief ones go a few pages, and the long one about 1 page per 35 pages of manuscript. So I sat down to write the brief synopsis, the most requested these days, and it turned into a long synopsis with still more to write. I got tired of that and made a stab a generic query letter–and it turned into my brief synopsis.
You know, it’s funny. I started writing the query and it was horrible. Then I wrote at the top, “To whoever the F* you are” and the words started flowing. The real line is missing that polite little asterisk.
No, I’d never send it out that way, but the absurdity of the opening took all the pressure off. Because let’s face it, this is my foot in the door we’re talking about here: THE QUERY. Look at all those capital letters. Scary.
So there’s a tip for you from Mr. Unpublished: write your query like you’d never send it out. The second part of that tip should be: then go back and fix it. I just haven’t gotten there yet.
If you’re like me, you’ve googled “word count.” You’ve also googled “preferred font.” And I know for a fact that you’ve googled the heck out of “synopsis.” My advice? Stop googling and go to the right place.