Written by Wendy Keller, Literary Agent
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It takes a sense of humor to be an agent. I’ve seen a lot of query letters in the 20+ years that I’ve been an agent but there are a few that really stand out–and not in a good way.
Here’s a sample of some of the incredibly awful queries letters in our collection, for real. Honestly, without editing grammar, spelling, style or words, we were sent the following:
- “I am thinking about writing a book called, “School Sucks But I Get Paid For Being Here.” I don’t really know how to write well, but I’m sure I could learn if someone pays me enough.”
- “My book is a delightful compilations between me and my friend Smart, a talking burro. We wish to write on global warming and its consequences.”
- “enclosed are some chapters of the sotry of a girl and her advntures on stageif you are interstrued in this stry I can send you the complete story if you are not then please retuen all the chapters to me thank you now” [sic]
- “I am 62 and live with my elderly mother so I cannot write a book now. She takes all my money and time. This is a way for me to tell you I am broke. I used to have a computer but now I use a friend’s. I have no idea what to do so I thought I would write a book. I have an idea. My life at sea was spent working. Not really working because I drank a lot and the girls in the port towns were really my downfall which is why I was stupid and didn’t save any money. Can you help me get published?”
- “I am seeking a literary agent with a relentless, merciless character to assist me in my life’s destiny to publish on an unlimited, international scale my collected poetic works. My ideas for my poems are so broad, so vast, that I cannot simply explain them in this simple letter. I need an agent for the Olympic event of teaching Random House, Inc. a lesson for their stupid recent decision to bypass my bold and avant genius. If you have the capacity to recognize the instant prosperity I am offering you, then you are invited to contact me by post. I will consider your response against others I will receive. Phone call and email entries are not permissible.”
- “Now let’s understand one another, Wendy. [Editor’s note: To this day I have never communicated with this author and would not choose to do so!] I don’t need your <expletive> opinion on my book [which I had not seen and which was not enclosed!]. You think you’ve got the ovaries to read a work I’ve had the mind and balls to write, and possibly find yourself sustained therein, depicted in a man’s book, by, for and of the most thinking of minds, a book in no ways contrived to please every ideological strumpet and horrified, fine. Get on with it. You’re either out to get books published and make money or not, so send for my work.” [Needless to say, I failed to send for the work.]
- The query was hand-written on 5×7 note paper with a shaky, spidery hand:“Dear Sirs: [I am female, by the way!] I have written a De Sadean novel with pace, style and wit. In the Satin Criminal a young girl seeks to impose revenge on her rapist. Deviance and gentility are forced into a fascinating dance.” Note: I have never in my 20+ years of business handled fiction.
- You gotta love this one: “Imagine a new Bible, where Madonna, the controversial pop star, is the new Messiah, bringing her message to the world of women who have been awaiting deliverance. My book is not fiction…”
- “Enclosed are items that will interest you. The first is a copy of my mother’s death certificate, which will prove I can dedicate the book to her…[and then they pitched a “bestseller, guaranteed” on how to live a balanced life]…My goal is to use my book to raise money for local mental health clinics.”
- “To save you time, I’ve already written out a rejection letter to myself from you and enclosed it with this query. You can just sign it and put it in the SASE enclosed.”
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