How not to write a query letter

April 2, 2011 at 10:55 am (Articles by other bloggers, Writing Advice, Writing Tips: Start Here)

 If you’re a writer long enough, the carefree laugh of creative joy turns to a bitter sarcastic coughing hack.

Here, for your bitter (but equally way more valid) joy, is an entire website devoted to sarcastic replies to idiotic queries. It’s called Slushpile Hell. (For those not in the know, the slushpile is the pile of manuscripts waiting to be read by an editor or publisher.)

Here’s two cut and pasted examples:

My writing coach told me that my novel is not yet ready to send to agents and needs more work. Could you read the attached sample chapters and tell me if you think she’s right?

I’d love to, but I’m terribly busy right now hitting myself in the head with a hammer.

Dear Slushpile Hell Scum, you think you’re so funny. I wish I knew who you were so I could come mock you and everyone in your little circle of ugliness. I’ve written a fiction novel—a GREAT novel. Do you think I’ll ever submit my manuscript to a CLOWN like you, or ANY of your fellow clown literary agents for that matter? Think again. You’re missing out on MILLIONS of dollars here.

Dear Charlie Sheen, thanks for your email. Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

 

You want the link again now, don’t you? Okay.

Time for your cat picture of the week.

I was airing out all our cushions and covers and chairs and so on, and put our very rickety cat tower on the barrier of the second-storey balcony. Five seconds later. . .

4 Comments

  1. oldancestor said,

    I hope I never end up on somebody’s “how not to write a query” web site. I’ve probably written some bad ones, but it’s mean to kick a struggling writer when he’s down.

    I also hope I never end up on somebody’s “how not to leave a comment on Louise Curtis’s blog” web site.

    What do you think of my chances?

    • Louise Curtis said,

      Dear oldancestor, your comment gets a 10 out of 10 from me (in case you’re concerned. . .).
      I once sent a book proposal to a publisher that had long since moved. The original address now belongs to a stationary company – who were so sympathetic towards my idiocy they sent me free samples (aww). So I laugh at myself more than anyone else – and the world is free to laugh at me too (otherwise this blog would be severely lacking in material).

      • oldancestor said,

        Ahaha. That’s a great story. Though it’s sad that a staionery company has better follow through than your average literary agency. I’ve sent plenty of queries with SASEs and still haven’t gotten anything back. Geez folks, all you have to do is not read it and shove it back in the sufficently sized, accurately posted second envelope with my address on it.

      • Louise Curtis said,

        oldancestor: I really, REALLY feel your pain on waiting for publishers. My observation is that a one-month reply (for either a full book or a partial) is lightning fast, a 6 month reply is standard if your writing is fairly strong (regardless of what they think their response time is), and longer than a year is unusual (but if they’re a big publisher, it’s still worth waiting. I’ve heard of a four-year wait, and I’m up to two years on one of my books right now). After six months it’s okay to write or call and check they still have it.

        Of course the stationary company is faster – they received one MS in a decade, while large publishers get about 300 per week.

        But I do sometimes wish publishers were more decisive – they’re a little too contemplative for my liking (mainly because they’re in the business of dreams – most published books actually make a loss and publishers only survive because of their rare bestsellers, which is enough to make any publisher as superstitious as a sailor).

        But I will never, ever pay a company to publish my books. Mainly because I know bookshops won’t actually stock that type of book – and books self-published online are lucky to sell 50 copies.

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