Tired of being just another schlep in the slush pile? Maybe it’s time to do something drastic that will make your pitch stand out from the other unsolicited Spam. For example (yes, I actually submitted this to several AAR agents):
Dear Underpaid Underling Automation Assistant to the Agent (put whatever you want here):
There are so many rules to query letter writing, so many formulas and clichés that dehumanize us as we fail famously at getting to know each other. The first rule of query letter writing, according to the horde of schleps on the Internet that has never published a word about anything else, is to get straight to the point. After all, literary agents–those whose sworn mission in life is to voluntarily read—hate receiving queries.
So here goes.
I’ve finished a rather marketable novel that will make all our hopes and dreams come true. It provides the general reader with the Sci-Fi Thriller escape he or she craves while it tenuously explores the postmodern experience through its subtext. It’s a monument to vicarious living. A reminder of what it means to be human. A big f—ing payday for all those involved.
Okay, let me start over.
Lori Perkins says I should compare my work to a combination of previously published works. My story is Fight Club and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World thrown into a cast iron skillet with a dash of T.S. Eliot for taste. (Thanks, Lori. Thanks for pigeon-holing me into literary ionization.)
Ah, I see your cursor hovering over the next query, the one about the latest low calorie, gluten free cookbook for single moms on the go. Or maybe it’s Chicken Soup for the Pregnant Teenage Soul. Don’t do it. Challenge yourself. I did.
Peter Rubie says that an effective pitch should compress your novel into a single sentence. If you can’t do this, your plot is a mess, and your message isn’t precise enough to reach your target audience. Sounds to me like a savory three-course meal dumped into a trash compactor, but here goes: When an anonymous college dropout and major competitor on Xbox Live stumbles into the freezer aisle of the local Wal-Mart at 2 AM, he discovers the meaning of existence; or rather, the lack thereof–we are all just pre-rendered characters on one big video game server, and a myriad of glitches, which he begins recording in a journal (manifesto), enable us to cheat at life.
Astonishing, this secret alchemy of trash compactors. But mix 100 pounds of ice cream with 100 pounds of Panda Express, and you’ll just get 200 pounds of s—.
Writer’s Digest says a good query introduces the editor to the writer’s style and tone without being cute. I don’t feel very cute. And if I’m not sitting in your Spam folder by now, contributing to an alchemical swill of dreams and despair, you’ve got the gist of where this is going: MANIFESTO is a no-holds-barred, literary/pop culture smashup that offers a compellingly strange look at the things we consider familiar.
Brief Synopsis: Complete at 100,000 words (pretty sure someone else determines that), MANIFESTO chronicles the discoveries of a writer calling himself Gankutsuou, who works tirelessly to understand the Program that is life. After discovering that our dreams are real but are updated over each sleep cycle, he begins an insomniac’s crusade to crack the code that holds our world together, all while preserving his memories with a simple tool his generation has forgotten–the written word.
As he falls into a self-destructive spiral, he explains how the economy really works, why girls date dicks, what makes some people effortlessly thin, and a slew of other oddities that make life so confusing. He gives advice he doesn’t take. He fails at love. He corners the stock market by investing in feces. He travels to New Zealand to save the kiwi. He becomes a cult leader. And when even that doesn’t work out, he discovers a way to package the truth inside something everyone in America wants, no, needs–ripped, sexy abs.
His extreme fitness video, OmegaX30, is designed to lure the masses into recognizing the truth about the Program by physically exhausting them and brainwashing them to write about their somnambulist experiences in fitness journals. While OmegaX30 will be a landmark success, the numbers are in on the consequences of this revelation: impending Armageddon. In the end, the System Administrators stave off the apocalypse by publishing the narrator’s “manifesto” as a mass-market paperback–thus fictionalizing the truth and allowing mainstream society to return to normalcy.
Capitalist Aspirations: Who’s the target audience for MANIFESTO? Anyone who’s taken a second look at a common occurrence and thought, That doesn’t make sense. Oh, and tack on anyone that grew up in the 80’s or 90’s.
Author Bio: After studying independently under ________, I graduated Cum Laude from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. I spent a year as a staff writer for Thompson Multimedia, where my work included ghostwriting novels and biographies for publication. I currently hold a Master of Arts in Education and a position teaching AP/IB Literature and Composition at Florence High School.
But are these experiences relevant to the proposed project? Of course they are. Ghostwriting makes you crazy. And believe me, being an English teacher in a public education setting has greatly informed my understanding of cult practices and Armageddon.
If you snickered at any of these deconstructions, you owe it to yourself to write me back. True, there are plenty of projects sitting in your Inbox. This one is fun.
Thanks for humoring me.
Daniel Pike, MA Ed., Would-be Wordsmith
Now, one would imagine that this kind of solicitation would garner only negative attention. Far from it. I had six exclusive readings (two partials and four fulls) of Manifesto in a 3-month period–over the summer, to boot. It garnered rave reviews from a few of these big shots as well. I imagine if one were writing something a little less risky (or some literary agents had a heavier pair!), one would have more success in actually acquiring an agent… -.-
Abuse them, fledgling writers. Most of them deserve it. Some of them even like it.