Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The perfectly honest query letter

Dear Not Really the Agent of My Dreams

If I’m to be perfectly honest, you’re the fifty-third agent I’ve contacted. Fifty-three is not exactly my lucky number but I do like how your last name rhymes with “civil”. I hope this means you’ll get another cup of coffee and bear with me while I pitch you my manuscript.

Are you sick and tired of reading stereotypical memoirs about middle-aged American women who go to romantic Rome or Tuscany, with an Italian phrasebook in their pocket, to find themselves again thanks to bowlfuls of ravioli and tall, dark and handsome lovers whom they thankfully can’t communicate with? If so, then you might like my memoir about a much younger American student living in the dredges of a rat-infested ghetto in the economically depressed and corrupt Naples who escapes after undergoing earthquakes, nightmares about an impending volcanic eruption, and a week in the surgery ward where her depressed Italian lover ends up with a hole in his chest.

I’d rather not put you off so early in our relationship by telling you how many words my manuscript is. Suffice to say that it’s a love story, which is actually just an excuse to launch into self-indulgent descriptions of my adopted city, Naples. There are no explicit sex scenes but I’d be happy to add them in. I’d also be prepared to take out a few of the ‘characters’, such as Carmine the bleach seller. But not the homeless priest with no legs or the pot-smoking Sicilian.

I’d love to tell you how special you are as an agent and why I ‘handpicked’ you, but I simply wasn’t able to get enough information about you on the Internet. From your website it does look like you’ve published a few cheesy titles, but I’m willing to overlook this if you’re interested in representing me.

I’m a teacher, translator, proofreader and mother of one. My list of publications includes two scathing book reviews for The Dunedin Star. That’s pretty much it.

Please find attached the first chapter of my manuscript. Don’t worry about the short length: there are sixty-four more of them, should you wish to read on.

I appreciate your time in considering my submission.


Heddi Rebecca Goodrich

P.S. Please take note of my auspicious surname. Some day my memoir will be a bestseller and earn some lucky agent a wad of cash. I hope you won’t be like all the others and set yourself up for a lifetime of regret.


  1. This is excellent. How can anyone resist such a letter, I ask you? They can't and they won't (I presume it will be "they" 'cause you're going to send it to a good dozen, right? And the fastest'll get it all, the book deal, the money, the fame, along with you of course...) Anyway, from Paris, receive this encouraging Smack!

  2. Oh, Dieter, if only I had the guts to send this letter in real life! At least writing it gave me some comic (and maybe cosmic) relief in a week in which I'm sending out another bunch of query letters, after a long break. I feel your encouraging smack and send one right back at you (I'm assuming this is a painless smack, much like a hug?). Merci!

  3. Well, Heddi, you should send a letter like this one, or at least one pretty similar. It might just work better than a standard, well-phrased, over-polite one (they get those a lot, I reckon). A now well-known Austrian writer, when he was on the dole, sent this letter to several companies (he sent it by FAX, could you believe it?): "Dear Mr. ABC, xxx is not a file number, and it does not catalogize an incarcerated criminal either. It is my ludicrously overdrawn account at the Bank yz. I ask you to transfer money to it. Should it come to such an extreme, I would even work for it. Sincerely, ..." And he received loads, loads of enthusiastic answers! PS: BTW, yes, my "smacks" are not smacks on the head but kisses (chaste ones for the ladies; sloppy ones close to the mouth for handsome males lol).

  4. Very amusing Heddi, love that letter, double dare you to send it.

  5. Dieter, I love your friend's cheeky letter. And I must say that since totally rewriting my query letter (with the help of blog readers' feedback), I have received more enthusiastic responses with a few agents saying they were "intrigued" by it, although it clearly breaks all the rules for query letter writing. But could I get even more daring? In the meantime, I'll take that sort of smack any day...

  6. Ooh, Mary Anna, a double dare! I haven't heard that word since elementary school and never have I been so tempted to take someone up on it :)

  7. Do it! Send an actual honest letter, I bet it would get someone's attention eventually!!!

  8. Dear Sharon, yes perhaps a version of it that's a bit more flattering to the agent - I'm working on it!