Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Agent Provides Feedback

Dear Author:

I very nearly sent you our standard form rejection letter in response to your query about your novel, RAINBOWS AT SUPPERTIME, an entirely odious work you have the temerity to describe as "literary."

The form letter would have said that I am extremely busy with current clients' manuscripts, and could not responsibly take on a new book. It would have said that my editorial contacts were less than ideal for this manuscript, and your work might better be handled by another agent. It would have said that our response indicated nothing negative about your work or its prospects in the marketplace.

But that would have been a lie, and an irresponsible one. The fact is, even in a world where I had plenty of extra time, in a world where editors were far less selective in the works they were willing to publish, and where readers bought lousy books with indiscriminate abandon, I still would not represent RAINBOWS AT SUPPERTIME. You see, dear Author, I have standards.

In this business, where we must necessarily reject at least 99% of the manuscripts that come before us, it is sometimes difficult to explain exactly what it is we agents are in business to support. But it's not hard to explain what we are against. We are against RAINBOWS AT SUPPERTIME. It is offensive, both aesthetically and morally. The fact that it exists punctures my very faith in humanity.

Unpublished authors claim to like personalized responses to their submissions, and claim to desire helpful feedback. Here is some: stop submitting RAINBOWS AT SUPPERTIME. No honest or reputable agent will ever represent such a work. Offering this up to an editor would instantly destroy an agent's reputation in the publishing industry. Editors, you see, do not like to be insulted, and, frankly, neither do I. So stop wasting everybody's time.

Burn your book, Author. Destroy every copy. Erase it from your disk, format the drive, and smash your computer with a hammer.

And once that vital deed is done, in the name of all that is decent, stop writing. Stop writing at once. We in this profession hold sacred the power of the written word, and you befoul it. On some level, you have to know that RAINBOWS AT SUPPERTIME is awful. On some level, you must have been making some kind of sick joke when you submitted this. Really, Author, you should be ashamed of yourself.

If this was the form letter, this is where I would invite you to query me with any future projects. But it is my sincere hope that you never write another word, and that I never hear your name again for the rest of my life.

Best wishes,

"Baked With Pete and Chad and Me": A Query Letter

Dear Agent:

Has U ever wonder what is like to just sit in ur moms basement smokin pot for days on end? That's what me and my friends do all the time, and sometimes, funny shit happens wen we r high.

so we wrote a book about that shit, and it is fuckin awesome. Like how sometimes you get so high, you think ur on a boat or something, but ur still in the basement, stoned off ur ass.

BAKED WITH PETE AND CHAD AND ME is a 42,000 word totally hilarious memoir, that is like kind James Frey, except I'm totally not a violent lying douche who harshes everybodys mellow.

Now that we wrote a book and r gonna make lots of money, we will have awesome weed. if u can get a lot of money for this, we will let u smoke with us becuz u seem cool.


Massachusetts Law Enforcement: A 300 Year Tradition

This was a National Article on Collegehumor.com in August. It's about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates.

Sarah Palin Advances In Another Direction

This is a humor piece Yankee Pot Roast published in July. It is about Sarah Palin's resignation as governor of Alaska.

My real query letter

This is the query letter for "Don't Ever Get Old."

There is an additional autobiographical paragraph, which I have omitted here, and I usually add one sentence referencing something specific about the agent I am querying. I don't think excessive flattery would improve my odds, but some personal acknowledgement lets the agent know I have at least done cursory research, and am not mass mailing identical letters to everyone in the back of Writer's Digest.

This is the pitch:

Ninety year-old Baruch “Buck” Schatz remembers a time when the only “portable handheld device” anybody needed was a .357, “Google” was the sound a guy made when you punched him in the throat, and “social networking functionality” came out of a bottle.

These days, though, this retired detective is extremely frail and frequently confused. But when he learns the SS officer who tortured him in a POW camp may have escaped Germany with a fortune in stolen gold, Buck decides to hunt down the fugitive and claim the loot. He’s got nothing better to do, and keeping his mind occupied is supposed to ward off dementia.

Assisted by his grandson, a law student who knows how to find information using a computer and is allowed to drive at night, Buck finds a lead down the Nazi’s long-cold trail. But lots of people want a piece of that treasure, and Buck’s investigation quickly attracts unfriendly attention from a Mississippi loan shark, a seven-foot tall Hasidic Jew, a preacher on the take, a cop with a grudge and a bloodthirsty maniac hell-bent on rubbing out everybody who knows anything about Nazi gold.

“Don’t Ever Get Old” is a 76,000 word commercial thriller about a hard-boiled man in a world gone soft, confronting the existential reality of his inevitable decline and death while trying to get rich quick.


I'm Dan Friedman, and this blog will deal with writing, books and other related subjects.

I've written a book called "Don't Ever Get Old," and I am currently querying and submitting the project to agents.

I'm not going to post request statistics here, because I think that's too much information to put out in public while I am attempting to sell the book, but I will post generally on the query process, and will also probably post fake queries and other comic stuff about writing and publishing.