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?