Queries that Make Literary Agents Laugh, but Not Likely offer Representation

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 27 2011

I think literary agents spend far too much time ranting instead of sharing details of those queries and experiences that have left us in tears, tears of laughter. Here are a few of our most recent favorites.

In a query the author started by going into great detail to tell the story of Famous Bestselling Author and how she struggled to find an agent and publisher. It was only “one visionary agent” who took it on. The Author then continued, after telling me the title of her book, to say, “I expect most agents and editors will dismiss it out of hand.”

So before even telling me anything about your book, you’ve told me I’m not a visionary and that your book won’t sell. . . .

Your query tells me nothing about your book. It talks about you, your children, your life (sort of like a Christmas letter) and finishes by asking me to take a look at your writing. The clincher? You know I’m going to pass so in your P.S. you tell me that you’ve researched lots of sample queries, they seem odd, so you’re just going to write from the heart. That’s all well and good. Writing from the heart is great. I still need to know something about your book.

“I have many different ideas for books. There are 3 major reasons why I have no manuscript for you 2 look at. A. Honestly, my grammar skills suck and writing a full manuscript would be futile. B. I just don’t have the time to finish one and if I was living comfortably and had a person to help me with my writing dos and don’ts than I could finish one pretty quickly. C. I’m too ignorant about the process and would be embarrassed to hand people my work that didn’t completely encompass my vision. Anyways, what I lack as writer, I make up for it with my storytelling.

“I have four kids; I am single; and I am available. . . .” Now, the author did add: “for all aspects of editing, writing, and polishing my book,” but those first words were rather jarring.


29 responses to “Queries that Make Literary Agents Laugh, but Not Likely offer Representation”

  1. Avatar Angie says:

    It must be Mozart reborn. He had his symphonies in his head, why bother writing them down.

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    "So before even telling me anything about your book, you've told me I'm not a visionary and that your book won't sell. . . . . "

    Sounds as though she's saying she HOPES you'll be that visionary agent.

    I sure would hate to send something to you all and have it used this way. Something about this kind of sharing makes me uncomfortable.

    The "query" is odd, however. All I can imagine is that the person may have been trying to write the query from the POV of the novel's protagonist.

    — Sasha

  3. Avatar Michelle de Rooy says:

    I don't think I've laughed so much in weeks! On the other hand, leaves you scratching your head, doesn't it, and I'm not sure if it's from hilarity or fear! :/

  4. Avatar Colin Smith says:

    Seems to me if this person really cared about writing and getting published, he would do whatever it would take to get together a presentable manuscript. This might include taking classes to improve his writing skills, or hiring an editor or a ghostwriter. If there's one thing I've learned about successful writers, they are willing to do what they need to do to make their work the best it can be.

    Yes, this definitely deserved an LOL.

  5. Avatar Julie Daines says:

    Crazy! What are some people thinking!

  6. Avatar CJ Miller says:

    Anyone who reads your blog would know better. Maybe the query was a joke so you could start your day with a smile!

  7. Avatar ryan field says:

    "I am single; and I am available."

    Sounds like they got you confused with match.com.

  8. Avatar Kendra Young says:

    I always read new posts from this blog first because they never fail to teach me something or make me laugh. I do feel bad for this person, but it's not like the information isn't out there if you're willing to look and put in some work. It makes you wonder if letters like these aren't jokes. Anyway, thanks for another laugh!

  9. Avatar Robena Grant says:

    That's sad. I feel badly for the person who wrote it because they don't have a clue.
    It's kind of like the party guest who hears you're a writer and either tells you they have a million great storylines in their head, or one great story they want you to write (and split the gazillion dollars you'll earn)and you don't have enough time in one evening to even begin to explain how the publishing world works.

  10. Avatar SBJones says:

    Maybe it's all of the reality tv shows like Dancing with the Stars and American Idol that causes this. If everyone fills out the form letter in triplicate, how do they ever stand out?

    It was unique enough to blog about. How many has that happened to compared to accepted and rejected letters?

  11. Avatar Danielle says:

    I think the fact that she even said point-black that she doesn't have the time to write a full manuscript is a red flag. Why both querying if you can't take the time to do the work? Also, I'm pretty sure agents don't help with the entire writing process.
    Anyways, thanks for sharing! I always read this blog first too.

  12. Avatar Stacy says:

    I'm just … wow. That's an actual paragraph? Do people do any research AT ALL? Like, even 30 seconds?

  13. Avatar Laura says:

    …and these are the queries that are sitting on top of mine in the slush pile. **sigh**

  14. Oh, my. You made me laugh. Good thing my mouth wasn't full.

  15. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I read scripts and submissions for a screenwriting agent and we get our fair share of these types of queries too. And the screenwriting world is WAY more lax on things like, well, ability to write, frankly. But you still get these ones that are just completely clueless. It's good for a laugh but it also makes me sad sometimes!

    A little bit of internet research, or even getting a book about selling screenplays or books from the library would help these people a lot, but it just doesn't occur to them!

  16. Avatar J.L. Murphey says:

    So…why was she writing you? LOL

  17. Avatar Redleg says:

    That reminds me of my first job as a nuclear submarine captain. I just told them I didn't really know anything about subs or warfare or nuclear physics but if I had a really good first mate it would probably work out all right. The Navy was like, "Bam, here are the keys."

  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Oooh I just want to be the next query in the pile. Anything is going to look good after that LOL.


  19. I agree with Sasha (Anonymous) and think the first query was trying to say YOU COULD BE THAT VISIONARY AGENT!!!, but went about it a little wrong. If he/she wanted to insult you, they probably would have said "you" in there somewhere. 😛

    The third one scares me a little bit. I shouldn't be surprised by the lack of research, but alas…I do work in a library, so this isn't really new.

    As for that last one, maybe they were trying to say that nothing, nothing!, would get in the way of their writing (except maybe their four kids?).

  20. Off topic – A feerw years ago my husband received an email from a male co-worker which was signed: LOL.

    Very puzzled he asked me, "Why is Joe signing an email, lots of love?"

    I had to explain what it meant. I still LOL when I think about that.

    Have a blessed day.

  21. Avatar Jennifer says:

    Redleg – thanks, your comment caused coffee spew!

  22. Avatar Jill Thomas says:

    Sometimes, all you can say is, "Wow. Just wow."

  23. Avatar Elissa M says:

    The nice part of me feels sorry for people this clueless. The evil part of me gloats and feels superior as she cackles with glee at the foibles of others. The practical part of me hopes to never, ever send a query that begs to be posted as a how-not-to example. Thanks for continuing to educate us aspiring authors.

  24. Avatar Jo-Ann says:

    Methinks it's a clever ploy! The writer sent this absolute turkey of a query off to you – and shortly afterwards, sent off the "real" query. The trick being that, in comparison, the real query would look even more professional than it was! Just think of those optical illusions in which white seems "whiter" when placed next to grey.

    Just my theory.

  25. Avatar Fawn Neun says:

    As a small publisher, I'm always amazed by cover letters (we accept fulls with our subs manager) that go into fine detail about the author's personal life, education and previous publications without so much as a one-sentence pitch on the manuscript I'm supposed to spend hours reading critically.

    Give me a reason!

  26. Avatar girlseeksplace says:

    I really dislike this mocking of authors. I'll agree that it's not appropriate, but I hope I'm never called out in this fashion.

  27. Avatar G. P. Ching says:

    I have a new respect and appreciation for what you do every day. LOL! indeed.

  28. Avatar Anonymous says:

    One of my pet peeves is when agents make fun of aspiring writers in public. In a forum like Query Shark, where writers volunteer to be humiliated, it's a little different. Here it's something else.

    The writer did seem pretty clueless, but these days querying agents at all indicates a certain level of self-loathing and cluelessness.

    Speaks to the contempt PG was just talking about.

  29. Avatar MissFifi says:

    I believe this person would do better in NYC/Hollywood where they pitch their ideas and screenwriters take the reigns after getting the go ahead. Not everyone is meant to write and if the story is good, well, there are those who can do it with finesse.
    But saying you have poor grammar skills and would love to have more time to write? The more you write the better your skills should get and don't we all wish we had more time to write? Ahhh to dream…