Monday, November 14, 2011

The hated query letters and pitches to agents

When I last left you imaginary readers I said the most common ways to get published are the Query Letter and the Agent Pitch. The intention of both of those gems is to obtain a literary agent who will forcefully shove your book down a publisher's throat like a pit bull in heat.
If you think the odds of getting published are astronomical wait until you try to rope a literary agent.
The query letter is what it says it is, you query an agent with a short description of your novel and they are so aghast with your talent that they sign you up for a mere ten percent commission in the states and fifteen percent overseas. The best query letters are three paragraphs long. The first paragraph is meant to hook the agent into reading the last two and in turn convincing them to ask you to send them your entire manuscript, toot suite.
Don't start the letter by saying you have written the greatest book ever and don't say it will make a zillion dollars and especially don't threaten the agent. They'll be plenty of time for that later once they've signed you.
Write that first paragraph to hook them. Here is one I wrote recently: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government insisted all eligible young men enlist immediately to fight against the enemies overseas. All eligible young men except Japanese-Americans.
There. I did not address the agent but I told her about the book in a way she wasn't expecting for a historical fiction novel. There are hundreds of examples of query letters on the Internet so copy some of the successful ones.
The other method of obtaining an agent is the five to ten minute pitch at writer's conferences. You shell out forty bucks to sit with an agent who really doesn't want to be there and definitely doesn't want to hear about your vampire character experiencing a coming of age or whatever. So, is it worth the money? Probably not but it is the only way the agent will ask for three chapters of your manuscript so what the hell, go for it. In all likelihood, when the manuscript arrives at the literary agent's office it will be perused by a third year MFA student working as an intern for the summer. So forget about it.
Back to the conference pitch. When sitting across from the agent, point at them and say, "You need my book!" Then hand them your entire manuscript printed on an eight-year-old HP ink-jet printer that you typed in a 10 point Old English Font. Yes again, I am trying to reduce the competition. Seriously, just tell them the gist of your book in a few words then tell them how long it is and what genre. After that, the agent will usually ask you questions to kill the uncomfortable silence.
Ah, just forget about it and give up. In the meantime, read my short story on Helium about a way for an attractive girl to get a literary agent.

Question of the day:  If you work for Waste Management is all your e-mail considered junk mail?

Deep thought of the day:  George Sand was a woman and Joyce Kilmer was a man.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Can't I Get Published?

Well-your writing might suck.
But let's just assume it doesn't. You have written the greatest book ever, a literary masterpiece that would give Dickens an insecurity complex, but for some reason you've received enough rejection slips, cards, and e-mails to wallpaper the Sistine Chapel. Including the ceiling.
Okay. Most writing gurus or New York Times bestselling authors will comfort you by saying, "Hang in there. Keep writing. Persistence pays off for those that keep writing and submitting. You have to crawl before you can walk."
Baloney. You have about as much chance of being legitimately published as you do getting hit by lightning - twice.
It's like the PGA tour. There are only 125 golfers on the tour and these are the guys that not only have extraordinary God given talent but have been playing golf since they were two-years-old. They are the elite and the same goes for authors. Why do you think so many self-publish? That's right, because nobody wants to read your crap.
These top ten writers you follow and worship were the nerds that went to school with you and spent all their time reading while you were riding your skateboard and showing off your Pet Rock to the other potheads. It's too late to develop a vocabulary. If I looked up every word in a Nabokov book that I didn't understand, I'd never finish the damn thing.
You may say I'm trying to discourage you from writing in order to have less competition for myself and you would be absolutely correct. As Norm says, "It's a dog eat dog world out there and I'm wearing Milk Bone underwear." I'm not sure what that has to do with anything but it's funny.
I'll talk about two of the ways to get published in the next blog: the query letter and pitches at conferences.
Just a teaser-- Literary agents are a cross between a realtor and a personal injury lawyer so you can guess how pleasant they are to pitch a 100,000 word novel about a cat who solves murders. Not my book, thank God.
So, since no one will probably ever read this post I will go to the library tomorrow... What's that? A library? Those are the places with those paper things on the shelves near the CDs, DVDs and computers. Anyway, I'll go to the library and get on a computer and post a reply to this blog pretending I'm someone else. That will be cool.
I'll leave you with the question of the day ---  Why are only women called the opposite sex?
And a deep thought of the day --- Smart phones allow women to eat alone in a restaurant.
Keep not writing.
JJ