Category Archives: Agents

Query Letters: Paperback Writer

I was listening to the radio the other day and a Beatles song called Paperback Writer came on. As I was listening to this song, a song I have heard at least a hundred times before, it struck me that this is a perfect bad query letter example! I mean, seriously! So, to prove my point, I put the lyrics in this post. To make it easier to see as a letter, I put it into paragraph form, but the only other change I made was taking out the repetitions of the phrase ‘paperback writer.’

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me
years to write, will you take a look? It’s based on a novel
by a man named Lear and I need a job, so I want to be a
paperback writer.

It’s the dirty story of a dirty man and his clinging wife
doesn’t understand. His son is working for the Daily
Mail, it’s a steady job but he wants to be a paperback

It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few, and I’ll be
writing more in a week or two. I can make it longer if
you like the style, I can change it round but I want to be
a paperback writer.

If you really like it you can have the rights, it could make
a million for you overnight. If you must return it, you can
send it here but I need a break and I want to be a
paperback writer.

Paperback writer.

So, am I right or am I right? 😉

Update: Looking back on 2008

Last December, I posted this list of goals:

  1. Sign a contract with an agent.
  2. Go to the gym three times a week.
  3. Sell a short story to a magazine.
  4. Complete rough drafts of books two, three, and four of the Fallen series.
  5. Begin work on a new book project.
  6. Sell Fallen to an American publishing house.
  7. Completely reorganize my house.
  8. Start printing pictures and putting them into albums.
  9. Develop a writing schedule.
  10. Post in Incandescent at least twice a month.
  11. Buy a good laser printer.

In that post I also promised that I would come back around the same time this year and go over how well I did. Accountability and all that. So, here it goes.

I have been working on several stories outside of the Fallen series, so number 5 has been taken care of. The first draft of Guardian is complete, which means 1/3 of number 4 can be checked off. Every month has a post in it, so number 10 is partially complete. And I did manage to reorganize my house (mainly in the last month), so number 7 was knocked out just in time. Unfortunately, that’s where my successes end.

Although I came close to a contract with an agent, I am not yet represented. I definitely didn’t make it to the gym, like, at all. My short stories have been sadly neglected and haven’t made it into any printed media. And the rest of these goals… well, weren’t even thought about, honestly.

You know, looking at it like this is almost depressing.

But, on the bright side, a lot of good things have happened this year, too.

So the purpose behind this post, to completely redo my goals for the next year. Here it goes:

  1. Complete rough first drafts of the final two books in the Fallen series.
  2. Sign with an agent in January or revise and resubmit Fallen.
  3. Continue working on various side projects.
  4. Develop my editing services.
  5. Continue with at least one post per month on Incandescent.
  6. Diet.

So there it is. It’s a lot less ambitious than last years, but I think there’s a chance of actually completing all or most of these. Wish me luck. I’ll check back with this list same time next year!
Oh, and, by the way. Merry Christmas! 😀

Query Letters: What NOT to do

While reading Nathan Bransford’s latest blog, Things I don’t need to know in a query letter, I came across a comment. This comment held a query written by Ulysses (yeah, I was impressed a Greek hero came back from the dead to write a query, too ;)). With all due respect to dead heroes, this query is a perfect example of everything you should leave out of a query. Many thanks to Ulysses for allowing me to re-post this.

Dear Nate-Dog:

I’ve taken sixteen years to write my fictional magnum opus: “Sixteen Years of Writing,” in addition to a good fifteen minutes researching the material on Wikipedia. I love it. My mother loves it too. My Dad hates it, but he suffers from papyrophobia and so this is to be expected. “Sixteen Years” is my fourth fiction novel. The other three are currently in the smallest room in my house, where their pages are occasionally read before being recycled. Amazon’s Breakthrough PW review said, “This is probably a book.” Stephen King’s publicist’s secretary’s assistant said something about “restraining order violation,” but I know he liked it. Although Agent X rejected this work, she said, “The words, taken individually, are not bad,” so you know I’ve got some talent.

The book explores themes of loneliness, heartbreak and misanthropy through the revealing lens of a man whose allergy to wood keeps him isolated from his forest community. In addition to being didactic, pedantic and preachy, the novel teaches the reader the value of cheese (particularly gouda) as an alternative building material, and how true love can reduce household expenses.

I think this book would be a great fit for the publisher of “Thirty Days in New Jersey,” and “Starting Religions for Fun and Profit.” They could do it up with a cover featuring a Martin Short look-alike and a Chihuahua. In red, because that stands out on the shelf. A homeless guy near my house thinks the local bookstore would make a killing stocking only this book and selling coffee. It has “New York Times Bestseller” written all over it. In crayon, for now, but we can change that. Take this on, and we’ll make enough money to visibly embarrass Oprah when she has me on her show. You’ll have to swing that, though, because her producer’s assistant’s nephew’s lawyer mentioned the same restraining order Mr. King’s publicist’s secretary’s assistant did.

I don’t have any psychological issues, as the attached court documents prove. My age is irrelevant, since my Mom and Dad can’t agree on that anyway.

I am willing to provide a short synopsis of the book. Also, a summary. Or an outline. I’ve got an abstract as well. I can also send pictures of me and my shoes. And short videos of a play I did in second grade. And, well, any of my possessions, actually, although you’ll have to give me an itemized list if you want someone else’s possessions.

Obviously, “Sixteen Years of Writing” is completely different from everything else out there. For one thing, all those other books have already been published. For another, none of them have been dictated to me by the monster under my bed.

Sorry for wasting your time, but I don’t have any of my own to waste.

Ann Arthur

Writing: Why Bother?

Ask yourself this question and, please, answer honestly: Why do I want to write?

If your answer consists mainly of ideas like “Because I want to be rich and famous,” “Because I don’t want to work a nine to five desk job,” or “Because I want an all expenses paid, worldwide book tour,” you may need a reality check.

I’m not saying that you can’t get these things with a career in writing or that having these kinds of dreams is a bad thing, but the life of the average writer is not a glamorous one. Though many writers are able to support their families on their work, you don’t see many driving Porsches. Most writers work seven days a week, at all hours of the day, and guess where they do it—their desk. Many writers never go on tour, let alone one that someone else is paying for. Reasonable expectations and having something besides fame and fortune driving you is important if you’re going to make it through the gauntlet of the publishing world. For example, did you know that, to be a writer, you actually have to write a book? Shocking, I know, but true. Unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, agents and publishers will not take you seriously until you can show them a finished product.

“But,” you may protest, “my idea is brilliant and original! Why won’t you give me a contract?”

For a very good reason, I’m afraid. Did you know that a large portion of the population is working on a book? Did you know that most of them will never finish it? Publishers and agents know this, and they’re not going to take the financial risk on someone who hasn’t proven they can follow through. Even after you finish your fantastic masterpiece, there is no guarantee that someone else will recognize your brilliance. The book world, like most creative industries, is entirely subjective. No matter how original and wonderful you are, there are going to be a lot of people who don’t like what you write. Finding the one person who will guide you through the tribulations of publication is not only daunting, it’s damn difficult.

What will happen to your self-confidence when you get your first rejection letter? Your tenth? Your hundredth? Is your book worth the pain of form letters and (sometimes) incredibly harsh denials? Will you continue to rewrite and work on, cry over and bleed for your manuscript? Will you force yourself to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard even though you get no encouragement from those “in the biz”?

To make it worth your while, the rewards you get have to deeper than money. You need pleasure. Joy at seeing the people in your head come to life on a page. Rapture when everything in a scene just clicks. Ecstasy when you finally finish that dreaded first draft. Writing needs to be more than a job; it must become your life. It has to be something you would do even if no one ever paid you for it. If you have that, no one will ever be able to make you wonder why you’re bothering at all.