Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sussing out the whackadoodles from the mini-poodles.

An agent recently posted that “agents get tons of flip or wacky query letters, and we toss them all.”

How do you mark the difference between a query that’s “flip” or “wacky,” and one that’s written to introduce a book with comedic elements?

Take the proposal below--would it be interpreted as adequate to sell the tone of the book, or jettisoned as flippant by an impatient agent?

(actual query here, but redacted)

It seems easy to dismiss the above query as non-serious or adolescent, but how else could we convey the humorous tone of our project while keeping a serious, respectful voice worthy of the industry?

Again, we can’t thank you enough for your time. We know you're extremely busy.

You can tell when your middle-grader is lying through her teeth, right?
Or your spouse isn't coming clean about why the laundry got left in the washer?

Sure you do.
You've had YEARS of experience sorting the truth from the guff.

Same with agents.

If you write a genuine query about a comedic book, you'll be fine.
The people who write joke or wacky queries are either so ill informed they make howler mistakes, or they're trying too hard to be funny.

The only time I was taken in by a joke query was when one of my former minions, now an industry star, sent me a query for a book about Time Goblins. I regret that it was not real to this day.


Kitty said...

Was it Jeff Somers who sent you the Time Goblins query?

Theresa said...

I agree about Time Goblins. I'd love to read that book.

Sarah said...

I, for one, would love to have the pleasure of actually reading the Time Goblins query.

We did have an hour stolen from us this weekend... I'd rather blame Time Goblins instead of Benjamin Franklin any day of the week.

AJ Blythe said...

Time goblins! See, I knew time had been going missing but I didn't know how. Now I know. It's why the Barbarians didn't finish their homework (no time), the Hub didn't get the mowing done (no time), my students didn't get their readings done (no time).

What a shame a query doesn't give away the ending. I'd love to know how to vanquish the odd time goblin.

In all seriousness OP, I totally get why you'd be a little freaked out, but as I'm sure you will have followed query letter rules, it would be clear you were demonstrating voice and tone, not being flip or wacky. Your genre in the admin at the end would then be confirmation.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Jeff Somers with the Time Goblins? I am blaming time goblins for my delay into the query trenches - making this last revision take so freaking long.

Good luck, OP. Hopefully, you can skate that line between tom-foolery and an attention-grabbing query.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Lets change the title to Tim Goblins and write a book about Apple.

Craig F said...

I thought Time Goblins added on when time was on your hands, like waiting in a dentist office, traffic, or returns from the query trenches.

Another example of where research helps, send comedic queries to those that rep comedy, not thrillers. Of course, too many non-fiction books could use a little comic relief.

Claire Bobrow said...

I took "former minion" to mean intern, now agent...?

JanR said...

Benjamin Franklin being a Time Goblin could explain a lot, come to think of it.

John Davis Frain said...

My middle school has a tell that I spot to know when he's lying: He opens his mouth and speaks.

My spouse? She either fools me every time or she never lies. I still haven't figured out which, and I'm not sure I want to.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Brooks Sherman?

Karen McCoy said...

I had to miss the weekend writing contest; I'm too busy for my own good over here. But I would hope to have some spare time to read TIME GOBLINS. Someone, please write this!

Karen McCoy said...

2N's, great idea! Then, maybe, people would actually know that his name isn't really "Tim Apple." :)

Steve Stubbs said...

Drama is much easier to write, so OP might find greater happiness and success writine drama instead of humor. That could be the simplest solution to the problem raised here.

If I were an agent I don't think I would be enthusiastic about most writers' attempts at humor. From what I have seen, writing humor is like writing sex. As in writers don't know how to do it. When I find myself laughing at the sex scenes and moaning at the humor scenes I have a spastic reflex in my arm and the book goes flying across the room.

The Guardian newspaper reported a few years ago on a British group that awarded The Plaster Foot to writers who wrote the worst sex scenes. One recipient that stands out in my mind was the overrated Norman Mailer. (I can admit I always thought he was overrated now that he's dead, heh heh. Just my opinion.)

If you do want to write humor and want to see how it is done well, catch CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller. If you want to see how hard it is, catch anything Heller wrote after that.

Good luck.

Lennon Faris said...

OK, I have a case of Time Goblins too and from glancing through the comments it is a pretty wide-spread problem. Was this a non-fiction book? an informational, how to rid your life of, kind of book? because someone should write it.

These Time Goblins are just rampant.

Speaking of which, I didn't have time to enter last ff contest but it was brilliant as usual. NLiu's and Kathy Joyce's entries both really got me. JanR, that was fantastically hilarious.