Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Top 10 Query Letter Tips for Cretins

Today Chris Andrews is visiting with a fun post. I met Chris, a fellow Aussie writer, at GenreCon2012 and immediately liked his humour and energy. Take it away, Chris!

1: The curiosity factor
The key to a good query letter is intrigue, so withhold the title, genre, word count, and even the reason why anyone would want to read it. In fact, send it to them from an anonymous email account with absolutely no contact details at all. To really pique their curiosity, include a video of your best friend doing karaoke.

2: Have fun!
Drop subtle hints about your story, like: 'Did you notice the attached computer virus?' or 'When was the last time you checked your car's brakes?' You can further stand out from the email in-box with the imaginative use of fonts – the more the better. If the agent or publisher specialises in mysteries, go with Wingdings or white text on a white background.

3: Guidelines are for losers
Would a successful author follow guidelines? Of course not, so give them what they need instead: your life story, a full breakdown of all your hopes and dreams, copies of everything you've written since kindergarten, and your acceptance speeches for all the literary prizes you'll win. If you've got a photo of a cute pet, send that too (it can't hurt).

4: Your time is valuable
So pitch the idea before you've even written the book. If that fails (unlikely), bombard them with any ideas you can think of, making sure you cover additional concepts for the sequels, spinoffs, webisodes, interactive games, and cruise-ship stage plays. Additionally, compile a list of all your ideas and send them to every agent with an email address (at once - so it's obvious they have competition). Save more time by sending it out without proofreading.

5: Their time is valuable too
Sometimes you need to pander to their needs, so skip all the introductory stuff and get on-side immediately by doing your research. Mention their home address, their partners/parents/children's names, their favourite holiday destination (show up and say 'Hi'), and visit their house while they're out to get to know their pets and friends. If that doesn't grab their attention, nothing says 'I really want to be a published author' like delivering a life-sized painting of their mother-in-law to their office.

6: Demand your price
Don't settle for anything less than a million-dollar advance. In fact, demand it before letting them see your manuscript. You're the best of the best, the top one per cent, and with a decent advance you'll even hand it over. They'll be sorry if they turn you down – tell them that too.

7: Bragging rights
You're a brilliant writer, so let them know you've seen the future and you'll sell 25 million copies. Further demonstrate your awesomeness by attaching the cover art you did yourself – every version. Include details about why Oprah will love your book, and your plans to write, direct and star in the inevitable movie. Oscars are assumed.

8: Hand deliver it for that personal touch
Everyone loves attention, particularly book people. For maximum impact arrive via helicopter and stroll into the office made up like a zombie (zombies are hot!). Insist on handing your query directly to your preferred agent or editor, but make sure you 'forget' to erase those naked photos of yourself from the USB (everyone deserves a treat).

9: Go retro
In the 'olden days' they wrote letters on dead trees, so grab your chainsaw and make a nice cross section of your neighbour's favourite hardwood. If the postage is too high, try handwriting with fluorescent ink on coloured paper. For added effect sprinkle glitter in the envelope and spray it with perfume. Bonus points will be awarded if you include a chocolate frog (everyone loves chocolate), but be considerate and unwrap it first.

10: The next big thing is…
You! Because you are, right? Be persuasive! Tell them your mother/friends/teachers loved your manuscript, boast about the decades you’ve spent writing it (as this clearly gives it depth), and explain how your story thinly disguises your incredibly interesting life. It won't hurt to add a list of your rejections too (just to prove how proactive you are). Finally, mention how being a published author is your life-long dream – that always softens them up.


Chris Andrews began his writing career when he boldly and ignorantly announced he could write a better novel than the one he’d just read. While he’s no longer ignorant about the challenges of writing novels, the dream remains. Find him on twitter: @ChrisAndrewsAU or at his website: http://fandelyon.com/


If you liked the Top Ten Query Letter Tips for Cretins, you might also like The Cretin's Top Ten Ways to Successfully Pitch to an Agent or Editor

Have you done--or wanted to do--any of these tips? Can you think of any more query letter tips for cretins?

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124 comments:

  1. ooh, for cretins, that would be moi then... :)

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    1. lol, Dezzy. I'll admit, I've often wanted to attach glitter to emails... if only one could!

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    2. All drawn from my own mistakes (the neighbour really didn't like losing that tree though)! ;-)

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    3. but how can a cretin like moiself suck up to a publisher if me cannot use chocolates, glitter nor perfumed paper?

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    4. PS, Lyndy, you have websites that glitterify your pics and text, so you actually can have glittery emails :P

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    5. Yes. Show you're modern and "hip" by writing your query only in "text-speak." Better yet, throw in some of that "I has cheezburger" stlye language. Open your letter with "Hai-hai! I no UB likn deez..." Include suggestive photos of adorable kittens.

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    6. Ummm... and from the typos in the reply above, you should know that agents love typos because writers are gods to them, so it adds a human element that humbles us before the unwashed masses. Include as many typos as possible, to set them at ease in the presence of our greatness ;)

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    7. aw, thanks, Dezzy! You saved me! I feel so much better now :)

      Sheila, lol!! I think you're on to something!!

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    8. we do lurv us the human element, Sheila...

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  2. Those are hilarious! I know mine wasn't great and probably borderline sucked, but at least it landed a publisher without having to resort to any of that.

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    1. I thought the chocolate frog (unwrapped for convenience, of course) was inspired! Perhaps I should have gone with marshmallows?

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    1. Thanks Tonja! It was a lot of fun to write.

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  4. It would be sweet to be able to demand a price and actually get it. ;)

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  5. I wish some of these hints actually worked, then I might get my query read, lol! So funny. Has to be an Aussie!

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    1. Denise, you made me chuckle out loud. It's so true... ;)

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    2. I wish all of these techniques worked! Creativity doesn't exist when querying. Connections help. Thanks for making me chuckle.

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    3. Connections definitely help. That's why going to conferences is so awesome.

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    4. Oh how Lynda regrets meeting me at a convention... ;-)

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  6. Number one query tip for cretins: Take form responses personally.

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    1. I suggest dealing with it via a high-powered water gun and an ambush site near their car. Camo-gear helps. So does a rain coat (they might wrestle the water gun off you - best to be prepared).

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    2. Yep, I'll go with Chris' suggestion. And let's face it, high-powered water guns are super fun too! ;)

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    3. I only have hot-pink camo gear and that's proven problematic at times ...

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    4. oh my gosh, Suze!! Where'd you get hot pink camo gear??!! I want! It would be perfect for infiltrating a flock of flamingos...

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    5. Hot-pink camo gear works best at baby showers.

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  7. Well, the more fools that take this advice, the better chance my query will have. Thanks!

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  8. Is it wrong to admit I laughed at the "cretin" reference?

    Fun post, but you left one thing out: you should also include your list of must-have actors to play in the Academy award winning movie version of your blockbuster book.

    Ans yes, marshmallow... chocolate-covered marshmallow.

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    1. Good call! Might have to save that for the Cretin's Guide to Taking Hollywood by Storm. Hmmm...

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  9. It's all good. Every viewpoint counts LOL.

    Maria

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    1. So true! I know I'm going to sell 25 million copies of my next book...

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  10. I know you're being funny, but ... I've considered pitching unwritten books to agents just to see what they might be interested in! lol

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    1. Bombard them! You know you want to. It's a game of persistence. ;-)

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    2. I actually know some authors who have done that here in Oz and succeeded... even though it goes against all the rules. Pretty rare but fortunate.

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    3. I've heard of it for non-fiction.

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    4. One Aussie got a contract for a set of novels based on his illustrations!!

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  11. Actually Linda, I think virtual glitter is possible in an email. :) Windows has some pretty flashy stuff.

    I don't understand though, isn't sharing the dream what it's all about -- how can they not request -- no demand your manuscript...

    This was great, thanks for the laughs!

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    1. oh, of course!! You're so right! The next query I make will have VIRTUAL GLITTER!!!! (erm, maybe not... giggle).

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    2. I prefer virtual snow during winter.

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  12. Loves it *jazz hands* all the way!

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  13. Just the tonic I needed on a cold January morning... :-)

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    1. Box some of that cold up and ship it south of the equator! I'll ship some heat north.

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  14. Very funny! I didn't figure out you were joking until the 3rd or 4th one and I was scratching my head... :)

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  15. I prefer the personal pitch you pay for at the writer's conference. I like to see who I'm dealing with.

    Funny post!

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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    1. That'd be the Cretin's guide to Pitching (link above). :-) Thanks for the Hugs and Chocolate.

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  16. Replies
    1. And you're welcome to use them! Be careful though, they're a very powerful tool.

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  17. How funny. Thanks for the laugh and the stares from the colleagues in my office :)

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    1. Anytime. I caught a mate like that too - he was lamenting his nickname of Papa Smurf. I suggested it was better than Takesitlikeaspartanwarrior. ;-) Maybe it was just a POV thing?

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  18. Wow, great tips. I'll be querying again soon and really needed to learn some new tricks I could employ. And fate has blessed me, I actually have a chocolate frog leftover from visiting Harry Potter World!! This is my year, I know it!!

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    1. The chocolate frog will make ALL the difference ;)

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    2. I'll email you my kids' EveryFlavour Jellybeanthings to go with it. They left more than a few...

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  19. Oh my gosh, this was fantastic! I love adding glitter, that stuff is impossible to get rid of making you impossible to forget! Thanks for the tips, Chris!

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    1. Try some honey too - just to sweeten the deal. ;-)

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  20. Cruise ship play, painting of their mother-in-law, an unwrapped chocolate frog and glitter on pink paper - definitely the way to go! :) This is a hilarious post!!! I'm making some creative writing teen students of mine write a query letter, and I'll have to read this to them.

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    1. I would love to see what they come up with! Seriously.

      I'd even suggest a side project - The Cretin's Guide to Handing in Assignments...

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  21. Hi, Lyda, Hi, Chris,

    Chris this was HILARIOUS. I often read agents pages that tell the newby author what NOT to do when sending a query. Almost ALL where on the their lists. LOL,

    LOVED the chunk of a tree! Thats a new one... LOL.

    Lynda,

    Thanks for introducing Chris and his list to us....

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    1. Thanks Michael. My neighbour was rather upset with the tree stunt - though that might have been the way it fell on his house... Fortunately he was on holidays at the time and I was able to blackmail the other neighbours into keeping quiet.

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  22. LOL!! These are hilarious! I especially like the "bonus points for including a chocolate frog." :D

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    1. Everyone loves chocolate! It's one of the laws of the universe.

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  23. Hahaha! Funny to read, but I probably WON'T be following these steps when I write a real query ;)

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    1. Arriving by helicopter is sure to impress them though. Dress as a ninja and arrive on dusk just before they shut the office...

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  24. What a hoot! I'm tweeting this. LOL

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    1. Thanks for checking it out and tweeting!

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  25. hilarious! fave is #2, i like surprises!

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    1. Damn, the system won't let me format this reply in Wingdings. Doh!

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  26. I especially like the first two point, easy to overlook yet startlingly common sense:)

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  27. Haha, at first I thought this was a SERIOUS list, and then I was like...what? LOL These are funny cuz they are so true--and unfortunately, some writers have done these things!

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    1. No agent or editor can resist a chocolate frog. Save your queries for summer, when the chocolate goes all soft and gooey...

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  28. Darn, if only I'd known about the mother-in-law painting thing earlier.

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    1. I find it works better than a self-portrait, strangely enough. Some people have no taste.

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  29. Hilarious! Gave me a good chuckle early in the morning!

    Thanks Lynda and Chris!

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    1. While reading all these fantastic replies nearly brought me to tears. Go figure.

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  30. Thanks for the laugh! How about only telling them what happens in the first chapter, and if they ask for more, tell them you don't want to spoil it for them?

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    1. Hmm, the Cretin's Guide to Accousing an Agent at a Convention while Drunk, you say?

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  31. Hysterical! Are all Aussies so funny? ^_^
    Thanks, Lynda and Chris!

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  32. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  33. This seems pretty fun! I really enjoyed reading this post, thanks.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  34. Very cool blog. Interesting posts. ;)
    Nice atmosphere guests with you here on the blog. ;]
    Yours. Have a nice day. !

    Follow me on facebook fanpage and blog
    I'm very concerned about this, please. :)
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/In-another-light/413836138693856

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  35. Ha! Love this!

    I should have stock in sparkle gitter for how much I use to put together my query packages. Too bad almost all of them are email queries now. But that's what emoticons are for.

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    1. yes! We should fill our email queries with emoticons too!!! lol

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  36. Dang it! I did querying all wrong... ;)

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  37. Oh, yeah! Sure fire, never fail tips :)
    Thanks for the smiles!

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  38. So funny! Great tips query tips!

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    1. Funny? But... surely you don't think I jest?

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  39. I''l take that millions dollar advice serious! Thanks!

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    1. Nah, go for two million. Really. I would. :-)

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  40. Instructions weren't clear enough. My head is now stuck in the dishwasher.

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    1. Try an enema in your ear - they're perfect for a good clean-out.

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  41. Haha! I guess I should definitely try some of these tips when I start contacting agents and editors. :)

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    1. Good luck! With these tips, you can't possibly fail!

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  42. Perfect for a good laugh this morning--thanks! (And yeah, I may just go for that 2 million advance!)

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    1. As a minimum! I think you're worth so much more!

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  43. Super post. It had me laughing throughout. Thankyou Chris. I am going to follow these tips when I query for my next book ;)

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    1. Oh...kay. Good, um, luck with that. ;-)

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  44. Ugh! Should we think it right to make fn or cretins; I have a sister in Christ who suffers fron cretinism.

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    1. In no way is this post making fun of people who suffer from cretinism. There are two meanings to the word and this post refers to the one that is NOT related to the affliction.

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  45. Could you just clarify something?
    When attaching glitter should I go for superglue or make my own flour and water paste to display my creative flair?
    On the mother in law portrait I am not very good with paint - do you think digital art AKA Hockney would be aright? I've had a go on my mum's iPad and I think I could knock something up.
    Thanks
    Kerry

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    1. always go with creative flare. Oh, and digital art is always a win too.

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  46. Very funny, Chris! *chortle, chortle*

    And hello, Lyndra! This is my first time on your blog and I've already subscribed – looks great!

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  47. Love this - some great advice! I'm going to do all of the above next time I query. haha

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    1. In that case they might as well give you a multi-million dollar publishing contract right now. :-)

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  48. I giggled my way through this list. Fantastic!

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