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)?

Farewell to the Community Bookstore

The New Yorker has a video and short article up regarding the imminent closing of The

God Coffee, I Never Finished You

Community Bookstore on Court Street in Brooklyn. It wasn’t the (surely deliberate anachronistic and ridiculous getup of the) New York Times reporter or the man-on-the-street soundbites about what went on in that pretty that I enjoyed, but the walk down my old neighborhood, scene of many a walk while I composed the perambulatory (and thankfully never finished) God Coffee, I Miss You. It was a paean to my time in Brooklyn and those blocks sandwiched between 2nd Place and Atlantic Avenue, fresh out of college and living the life of Riley, where I spent a lot of my weekends and mornings after having worked until all hours at Avalanche, a hip little new media company on Hudson Street (near the offices of Viking Penguin and many a literary agent), home to the venerable BorderEqualsZero, in Cobble Hill Park, watching the nannies from the islands congregate while their charges ran around the grass in the middle of the beautiful brick buildings in that neighborhood.

The Community Bookstore was just down the street from that park, and I’d go in and pick up a used book or two, or three, all in the name of fleshing out this novel, or the next one, or the next. There was the flashier, cleaner BookCourt  down the street and the even bigger and flashier Barnes & Noble across Atlantic Avenue, and, of course, I’d browse through those, as well, but with my student-loan saddled shoulders, I came away with the most books from the Community Bookstore. While it was a good deal messier, it reminded me, for sheer volume and the sense that books had digested the room, of the back closet on my grandfather’s porch of a three decker in Worcester, Massachusetts, where books lined every shelf, in all states. It was a sort of magical space, where who knew what you were going to find, but it was likely going to be worth the archeology, whatever it was.

If you’re in the area I highly recommend stopping by for the sheer experience of it.

Version Control: A Book Review

Version Control

Version Control, by Dexter Palmer

As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about time travel and how to use it in fiction, or even place it orthogonal to the story, I tend to dive into books with time travel with gusto and a keen eye towards how someone else might have done it.
So when I saw Version Control on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and had a coupon burning a hole in my pocket, I couldn’t help grabbing it. From the jacket copy it sounded like a quirky, funny take on inventing a time machine with a bit of a heart.

And while the book is funny (the dream of YHWH as the worst of all possible tenants towards the end of the book is hilarious), it’s not as funny as I’d expected. The grief and depression and general unsettledness of the age in which the book is set is far more prominent, but Palmer earns it with a thorough depiction of Rebecca and Philip’s relationship from the very start to the very end(s). Dexter Palmer fits in musings on love in the digital age, race relations and predispositions, scientific progress, our busy, unforgetting world, all swirling around the lovely and sad family story of Rebecca, Philip, and Sean.

The time machine, the causality violation device, around which the novel works isn’t a flash-bang time machine of H.G. Wells, but almost like a harpist, plucking at strings, jumping from this one to the next, the problems of history and continuity handled in an interesting, subtle way by Palmer. In fact, you (and they) are not even sure it *is* working at all. And that’s the same way the book worked for me — not a thunderbolt but just something that felt perfectly right.

It’s a different conception of a time machine from the one Sam and Laura build in Trip to the Quiet Room — their time machine fits in a bathtub, a storage shed, or a barn and tends to shred sheep in a very messy way, but with bubbles — but I loved his take on it, it felt natural, plausible, and fit so well into the story.

Two thumbs up, go and give it a read.

No Booker Prize for William Murphy

William Murphy’s tale of time machines and tussles has not, I’m afraid, been selected for the Man Booker International Prize long list.

On the list!

On the list!

I know, I know. Stop weeping, please. Especially on the train, like that. People will stare. They’ll wonder. So dry your tears, wrestle in those last few body-shuddering sobs. It’ll be okay. The book’s not even published yet, so you couldn’t expect the Booker Prize folks to add it to the long list.

Could 2017 be our year? 2018?

Exhausting work…

Sending (and receiving, not receiving responses) queries is exhausting work

Sending (and receiving, not receiving responses) queries is exhausting work

Boy, let me tell you, sending queries and receiving responses (or, more often than not, not receiving responses) is wearying work.

The scoreboard is up-to-date (and in the hockey version the empty void of the agents’ penalty box is filling up) and, yes, that is an even, round number of 50 between agent rejections and just simply no responses.

So if you’re an agent, it will make a great story, if you do sign me and we become New York Times Best Sellers… “The writer who was overlooked by 50 agents before finally landing the winner!”

 

 

 

Right?

 

NoResponse

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Least Popular of Times

Listen, you win some and you lose some.

You win some, you lose some

Winning some, losing some

Sometimes you’re the least popular, but at least you can console yourself that you’re super highly rated (because no one else has read it to give it a worse review).

You, too, can check out your year in books on Goodreads, if you track what you read there.*

 

 

 

 

 

A Festive Fight from the NHL

Thanks to @GaryDzen we have this clip of Jack Edwards singing a Christmas Carol during the Tyler Randell/Ryan Reaves fight during the Bruins game the other night.

Relevant, of course, because William Murphy, protagonist of Trip to the Quiet Room, was a pugilist on the ice, and probably would have appreciated Jack Edwards singing a little bit during his bouts.

If you want to listen to a little more of one of my personal favorite announcers, have a listen to the best of Jack.

“…[F]ighting the good fight is not only the right thing to do, but it can be a heck of a lot of fun. And who has more fun than us?”

Great Article in the New York Times about Concussions in Women’s Hockey

There was a great article on the front page of the New York Times Sports section about the rise of concussions in the women’s game as its professional league begins to take off, “Women’s Hockey Grows Bigger, Faster and Dire”.

On the ice

On the ice

Which would have been a great time to plug my book, which deals with an ex-pro hockey player dealing with a history of concussions (and his wife’s misfiring time machine and a gang of blacksmiths from Old Sturbridge Village, amongst other things). Except it’s not published yet.

So whenever it finally gets published, keep in mind all this great context that’s been coming out in the years prior to it actually being something you can hold in your hand and read.

Thank You from the Bottom of the Little Red Publishing Hen’s Heart

SleepingWell, it wasn’t meant to be this time (like last time). The Little Red Publishing Hen, despite all of your votes, did not make the semi-finals of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2015.

I appreciate all of your efforts and hope you enjoyed the story.

But, for the meantime, it’s back to scoreboard-watching and hoping our author scores a goal or at the very least racks up a few more penalty minutes.

PenaltyMinutes