In this day and age, anyone can write a novel. Getting it published, however, is often a long and difficult process. The first significant hurdle — at least for those authors hoping to approach large publishing houses — is landing a literary agent. And the typical way that one approaches a literary agent is with a query letter. There are countless good resources for new authors describing how these letters should be written.
Most agencies receive hundreds of query letters per month. And the rumor is that some of these are pretty bad. Sharon Bayliss is even running a contest this month on writing the best bad query letter. I simply couldn’t resist.
A Really Bad Query Letter
To Whom It May Concern,
Are you looking to strike it rich with the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter? Because I just finished it — I wrote the whole thing in 22 days, actually. BESTSELLER NOVEL is a young adult paranormal post-apocalyptic suspense with romance and erotica elements, complete at 210,000 words. It’s the first in a nine-book series I have planned about a young girl who discovers she’s actually a mermaid with magical powers. Though you don’t represent any of these genres and you’re actually closed to submissions, I know you’ll be interested! Just as I’m sure that Random House will be making a big offer for this book.
One time my brother and his friends went out on a party barge and drank a lot, and they thought they saw a mermaid.
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Alice has it all: good looks, good friends, good grades, and no problems. Until she discovers she’s a mermaid. Not just any mermaid, but THE CHOSEN ONE, who is the only mermaid that can stand up to the evil Lord Goldiwort. I don’t want to leave my perfect world behind to go to some stinky underground world. But I guess I’ll do it, since there’s a slight chance I’ll meet a really hot mer-man along the way.
This book is a natural choice for Oprah’s Book Club and a guaranteed bestseller. How do I know that, you ask? Well, my mom LOVED it and so did my friends. And my grandma always said I’m a good writer. This would also make a great movie. I would like Taylor Swift to play the lead. I’m sure you will want the full, so I’ve attached it as a 1995 WordPerfect file. I will also be mailing a hard copy of the manuscript to your home address, which I found on Google. It’ll be the one in the bright pink envelope that smells like cinnamon, because of the homemade cookies enclosed.
I am qualified to write this book because I wanted to be a mermaid since I was a little girl. Also, I have the COPYRIGHT for it so that no one can steal my ideas. Please call me today to discuss representation. If not, I will call your office to follow up. Hourly.
P.S. I have already self-published this on Amazon (just to get it out there) and sold 3 copies in the first 6 months!
P.P.S. Amanda Bigsale uses TrueTwit validation. Please CLICK HERE to verify that you are a real literary agent.
That’s the end of my entry. Now, go visit some others! Or head to Sharon Bayliss’s blog to vote for your favorite best bad queries!
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Shawn Keenan says
As I read, I kept thinking, “oh, he should put talking about his family loving it, he should talk about self publishing it, he should say he’s going to call them.” Bam, bam, bam. The hits just kept coming. This is a really all inclusive example of what not to do. If people would simply avoid anything that’s been included in this query letter we could probably keep most literary agents off the ledges outside their windows after a long day of reading through the slush pile.
Thanks, Shawn! Glad you enjoyed it.
This cracked me up! I think you hit every pet-peeve agents complain about. This simply has to win:-)
Thanks, I had fun writing it!
The “home address” part cracked me up. Love your work – good stuff!