Letters to a Literary Agent

The Latest from the Field

The Latest from the Field

As special bonus content, I’m giving you a sneak peek into my current hunt for an agent. This week, I’m showing off my latest query letter, which is the all-important first impression you make on an agent or their assistant or perhaps the occupants of the same subway train they ride because they left the printout on their seat as they exited the train. Your query letter, well, potentially, your query letter will go through many revisions as you get rejection upon rejection, keeping them all in a safe box to trot out when you do finally land an agent, publish your book, and start making the interview circuit and get to quote a J.K. Rowling-esque number of rejections before your genius was finally understood: “Yes, I was rejected 197 times before Lisa Finklebottom saw enough in my manuscript to sign me and the rest is New York Times bestseller history!” Of course, given that, in my experience, you get no response at all from an agent makes it a little more difficult to collect, but still. The empty shoebox will make for great television, like Geraldo Rivera opening up Al Capone’s vault.

So you tweak your letter, design it to get a response, until finally you get agents asking for manuscripts to read, and then you wait some more. Based on the overwhelming lead the Empty, Soul Sucking Void of No Response has right now, I’ve changed my tack with my very latest efforts. This, dear readers, is my very latest and greatest query letter making the rounds at the moment:

24 March 2016

Matthew Hanlon
*** ****** **
**********, ** *****
m******@***.com | http://www.wombatsdigit.com/b/

Illustrious Agent
Literary Agency 123
123 Hudson St
New York, NY 10007

Re: Trip to the Quiet Room, a novel

Dear Agent:

GREETINGS, ILLUSTRIOUS AGENT, I AM A PRINCE, EXILED IN A STRANGE LAND, AND AM IN NEED OF GREAT HELP AND ASSISTANCE. I HAVE IN MY POSSESSION $450,000,000.00 WHICH I CANNOT GET OUT OF THE COUNTRY IN WHICH I FIND MYSELF.

IF YOU SEND YOUR MAILING ADDRESS, BANK DETAILS, SO I MAY WIRE YOU THE FUNDS, YOU MAY KEEP HALF, OR INDEED ALL, OF THE MONEY, SO LONG AS YOU REPRESENT MY NOVEL, trip to the quiet room, WHICH IS A NOVEL OF GREAT CRASHING AND BASHING, LOVE, LOSS, HOCKEY, TIME MACHINES, AND 1989 (NOT THE TAYLOR SWIFT ALBUM, FOR LEGAL REASONS).

PLEASE, I BELIEVE I MAY HAVE ANGERED TAYLOR SWIFT BY APPROPRIATING HER YEAR AND MENTIONING IT IN A NOVEL AND NOW QUERY LETTER AND MY TIME IS RUNNING SHORT. PLEASE RESPOND WITH DETAILS AND WE WILL MAKE A GOOD DEAL (15%?) AND ESCAPE THIS COUNTRY IN WHICH I AM STUCK AND PUBLISH trip to the quiet room, A SUREFIRE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, BOOKER PRIZE WINNER, AND REAL GOOD BOOK.

MAY I PLEASE SEND COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT AND YOU SEND BANK DETAILS?

Sincerely yours,

The Exiled Prince Matthew Hanlon of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Based on my exhaustive research, this style of letter is about as likely to get me a response as the more traditional approach I’ve been taking, so what’s the harm?
NoResponse

Agents, consider this an open letter to you. Would you like to represent me (and my book)?