Monday, May 19, 2014

Reports from the Incoming Query Pile

1. There is no such thing as a "literary product." I'm not sure why anyone thinks this is clearer or more elegant than "a novel" or "a memoir" or "narrative non-fiction."

Clarity and specificity are your friends. "Literary product" is neither.




2. "Research for an agency to represent my recently completed novel disclosed your listing which indicated an interest in high-concept thrillers." Find the subject of this sentence. When I can't parse your sentence....no wait, when I START parsing sentences in your query letter, particularly if it's the first, that's a sign of Trouble with a capital T which rhymes with P and that stands for POOL. Right here in River City.

Oh wait, sorry, parsing sentences always makes me think of this River City, Iowa.


3. "I'm writing about Topic A which has also been written about by distinguished names such as Stephen King, John Updike, John Barth, John Irving, Philip Roth, Jeffrey Archer, Paul Auster and Thomas Pynchon."

It takes a particular kind of hubris to include yourself on that list ever, let alone in my incoming queries. You're much better off just telling me about your book. If you're as good as any one of those guys, I'll notice. Me and a whole lot of other people too.



4. "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya." This is the writing of a grade-schooler. Business letters do not start with "hello my name is (whatever your name is). To state the obvious: it's instantly off-putting.

20 comments:

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

"Literary product" sounds almost intentionally degrading, as if comparing a manuscript to any other gizmo that rolls off an assembly line.

The only real problem I'd have with the "Hell, man name is ..." opening would be if the next line were, "You killed my father, prepare to die."

Ardenwolfe said...

When did novel become a bad word?

Colin Smith said...

"Literary product" sounds about as appetizing as "meat product." :)

N'wah W Attitude said...

Not to defend that awful sentence in point 2, but the subject is "Research for an agency to represent my recently completed novel". After all, it was that research which disclosed your listing.
It is a stupid sentence, but subjects and objects needn't be specific words.

And no, I promise I wasn't behind that query.

Susan Bonifant said...

"No, wait..." and everything else in #2 made my day.

I love the occasional poignant posts
I read here (the author concerned about her appearance, the storyteller in the cafe) but you are some funny when you're cranky, even without an F-bomb.


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I've put down what I was told was a popular piece of fiction because of #4.

kregger said...

What about a "Literary 'Fiction Novel' Product"?

I like the other quote from The Princess Bride, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

french sojourn said...

"inconceivable" product.

Lance said...

I don't think literary product means what you think it means.

Dale Bishop said...

There actually are literary products. Maybe not within the context of querying, but they do exist.
http://www.trendhunter.com/slideshow/literary-spin-offs

Janet Reid said...





Dale Bishop's link to literary products

led me to Beowulf sox

which I MUST now have!

Karen McCoy said...

Loved the "Music Man" reference. Our Harold Hill spat so much that he was dubbed "Mucus Man" by the end.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

"In my literary product, I use many of the same words as Thomas Pynchon, just in different order. Also, a review of my fiction novel will show much of the same punctuation as the high-concept thrillers of both John Irving and Philip Roth."

Terri

donnaeverhart.com said...

And...literary product made ME think of that t-shirt - which I must have, "I like big books and I cannot lie."

Michael Seese said...

#3. My book has heavy religious undertones, and has been compared favorably with many of God's earlier works. (BTW, He's a member of my writers' critique group.)

DLM said...

Lance and donnaeverheart, I was already having a MIGHTY fine day indeed, but y'all just iced the cake with buttercream, and I am grateful.

In short: hee.

Katherine Traylor said...

I thought at first you meant that someone had actually begun with "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya," which I'd have thought would at least have gotten a careful read.

Kitty said...

Kregger, that quote came from Cool Hand Luke.

kregger said...

Kitty,
You mean Inigo Montoya didn't eat fifty hard boiled eggs?

Doesn't anyone believe in the Great Pumpkin anymore?

Jenz said...

Extruded Literary Product®

Now with 20% more parsable sentences!