Sunday, February 6, 2011

What If It Had Gone THIS Way?

Dear : Agents A-Z

I don’t know what kind of books you handle but I though if I just emailed everyone in the Writer’s Market I’m bound to get a few nibbles.  My book FrightLight is almost halfway done and I thought I’d get a jump on the whole ‘representing’ thing.

My story is about a girl named Pretty, whose mom is a total flake and ships her to a rainy little town filled with woods and sheriffs and stuff.  Pretty is sad and goes around being sad, and beautiful in a high school filled with people who instantly like her despite the fact that she is kind of unpleasant and a bummer.  She crushes on this guy who treats her really bad, says she’s smelly, and stares at her menacingly in the parking lot.

The guy’s name is Eugene and is actually an old guy trapped in a kid’s body…a friend of his gave him a virus called Vampire that makes him not age. He hangs out in high schools and stalks the new girls.  He lives with other old people who have this virus. They all hate that they permanently look like hot teenagers because it’s a curse to be gorgeous for all eternity…plus if they go out into the sunlight they flash like strobe lights.

Everyone stays away from Eugene and his gang except Pretty, who thinks that boys sneaking into her room at night to watch her sleep is not stalker behavior, but kinda sweet.  Although Eugene constantly tells Pretty that she is unable to survive her own clumsiness, repeatedly tells her they can’t be friends, and disappears for days, she decides that he’s a catch and falls in love with him.

Eugene takes Pretty to his favorite secluded forest area and announces that she is so well…pretty, that he finds it hard not to kill her on the spot.  Pretty thinks it is so noble that Eugene resists this murderous urge just for her and proceeds to tempt him by getting really close to his mouth.  Meanwhile there’s another gang of virus-old-people-in-hot-bodies, these have different colored eyes so you can tell the difference, that decide if Eugene isn’t going to devour Pretty, then they call dibs.  This is a total party foul in the virus society. Eugene’s family whisks Pretty away to safety, tell her horrible news, and then lose track of her.

Pretty falls for a bait-and-switch ploy and is lured to be dinner by one of the opposing virus dudes.  He and Eugene fight and then Eugene’s family tear him apart and set him on fire while dancing about in a rain-dance like fashion because that is what sophisticated virus people do.  Pretty almost gets the virus, but Eugene saves her by sucking it out of her arm.  He does NOT empty her like a juice pouch and since this is very challenging for him, it proves he’s totally in love with her and really strong.

Eugene’s family takes Pretty to the hospital, lies to her mother about how she got hurt, and then leaves Eugene there to watch her sleep some more.  Pretty’s mom buys the entire story hook-line-and-sinker, leaving Pretty and Eugene to be together. I have another book in mind about Pretty and a guy named Jason Gray who has anger issues and gets involved with a dog cult.

Thank you for your time. Get back to me quick for first dibs when I finish the book!
Sincerely, VampLuver2010

It's all in the way you say you probably guessed. This isn't the real query letter for this book.

But I wrote an example of how a terrible query could knock a book out of the running simply by not being the best it can be.

Not addressing the query to a specific agent is one of the first mistakes.  And there's no mention of genre or target audience.

There's no drama, no hook, no reason to read the actual book. This example is also WAY too long. There's no information about the writer either. 

Also the heroine doesn't come off as sympathetic and her behavior is without an explanation. This makes her hard to relate to which is the opposite of how she comes off in the real book.  The love interest seems like a psychopath, again without explanations, this book doesn't fit into the age category it was written for.

The fact that the manuscript isn't finished is also not great.  The language is unprofessional and no research was done to make sure that the agent even represents the type of fiction in the query.

You could have the best manuscript, the most original take on a genre, but if you don't put the effort into the query process it won't go anywhere.

Find out the agents that represent your stuff. What are they looking for? Have you checked their website's submission guidelines?  How about having a colleague read for punctuation and grammar errors?

You put so much of yourself into your story...take some of that passion and apply it to the business part of writing.

Do you have any tips on making your query the best it can be?  Let me know if I missed anything. Until next time...Go Write!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sendin it to a publisher that doesn't represent your genre is one of the biggest mistakes.
Your letter did make me chuckle though!

Tony Benson said...

I laughed all the way through this. I'ts well written (in the way you intended it to be) and very entertaining. I wonder if agents have entertaining letters pinned to their walls so their collegues can laugh at them.

Myne Whitman said...

This got me laughing. I would have chucked it from the first paragraph if I were an agent. I think you got all the mistakes in. Nice one...

KarenG said...

Great job! You proved a point and I'm sure we are all wondering why in the world those books are such a rage. Now I'd like to see the original Twilight query letter! Can you set that up for us?

Raquel Byrnes said...

Alex - Yeah, thats a biggie.

Tony - Glad you liked it...was fun to write.

Myne - I know how you feel.

Karen - Yes, the whole plot doesn't go there.

Patricia Lynne said...

Great post, great examples of what not to do. This might be something every author should pin next to them when they tackle queries, a reminder of what not to do.

Rebecca Bany said...

Thanks for this!