Well, I was listening to Paperback Writer by who else but The Beatles, when I was thinking that the lyrics would make for a horrible query letter.
So, I read the lyrics and I could easily pick out errors if it were. Then I got to thinking...this would make a great example on how not to write a query letter! I mean, it was riddled all over with mistakes!
So what I'm going to do is post the lyrics as if it were a query letter. I will comment in this pretty color. Not to poke fun at The Beatles, I love them do. This is all just for fun. :) Let's pretend it's a snail-mail query and let's pretend I'm Literary Agent Vanille. ;)
Paperback writer, paperback writer What is this?
Dear Sir or Madam, Don't say Dear Sir or Madam. You put Dear (Name of Agent, and try to spell their name right). Sir or Madam makes it seem like you just printed out a bunch of the same copies and sent them off. At least make it a little bit personalized, make me feel like you care about me enough to know what my name is.
Will you read my book? Don't say this. If I'm interested, I will ask you. It took my years to write, would you take a look? You just repeated what you said. And you say it took you years to write? I'm glad you're so dedicated, but that is too long. If I represent you, there's going to be a deadline for your next book. We can't wait years for it. It's based on a novel by a man named Lear. So? And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer, paperback writer. Don't tell me you need a job. You're making me feel bad. But pity isn't going to make me read your book. It's a 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 writer, paperback writer. Did we just shift POV? And this is not a plot. This is a premise, or not even. Tell me more about the story. This just a list of characters, how do they relate to each other and the story?
It's a thousand pages, give or take a few, First of all, you don't put how many pages it is. Different fonts in different sizes will vary in pages. You want to put how many words it is. And anyways, a thousand pages gives me the impression that this a lot of words, maybe more than 100K. That's too long. 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 and I want to be a paperback writer, paperback writer. I know you want to be a paperback writer, already! No need for repitition. No, don't make it longer!!
If you really like it, you can have the rights. Duh. It could make a million for you overnight. Don't say anything along the lines of "it will be a bestseller!" or "this is the next big thing since twilight/The DaVinci Code." I will figure out if it has the potential, but you've got to show me it in the query. If you must return it you can send it here, Where is the SASE? (Self-addressed stamped envelope) At least say I have enclosed an SASE. but I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer, paperback writer, paperback writer.
You talk too much about yourself, and not the book.
Hah. I have to admit, that was a bit fun. Not the crushing dreams thing, I felt bad about that. But just pretending I'm reading a query letter and being an agent. Now, to take off my costume and store it safely in my closet for future query meetings. If your query letter has any of the things I commented on negatively, fix immediately.
Thank you, uh thank you very much,
Literary Agent Vanille ;)
"Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague."
-William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"