Monday, May 27, 2013

Bad Query

I was searching through old emails in one of my accounts recently, trying to find a password.  While searching, I came across an agent's reply to a query letter I wrote over a decade ago.  The query was for a terribly-written fantasy novel I started when I was in college.  At the time, I thought I had a fairly good idea for what a query letter should look like, based on what some books were telling me.  It's such a bad query letter, I felt like I had to share it (and comment on its hideousness).  Here it is (with the agent's name hidden):

Dear Mr. [redacted],
    I found your listing in the 2000 edition of "Guide to Literary Agents."  I'm excited that you're actively seeking commercial fiction and that you "know the book business from both sides of the table."  I have recently completed a fantasy novel titled [redacted], and I'm seeking an agent interested in finding new writers who can find the right publisher for my work.
    In the year 412 solum-ruina, a sorcerer named Shaelox orders his army, under the leadership of General Cynag, to forcefully take control of Ortello, an abandoned fortress inside the borders of Derunate.  The sorcerer makes allies of the ogre tribes, and the western lands of men become a vast battleground.  Shaelox seeks the fortress because of a great beast that dwells inside.  Its name is Chonossar, and it is the product of the world's first source of evil – Omrontus.
    The beast will only adhere to its master or to any who possess the Jewel of Omrontus.  This jewel is fused to the Torguscept; a conglomerate of two staves in one.  The Torguscept also holds the Jewel of Prospotos, which would allow its user to destroy the beast.
    Aeril, a prince in disguise and cousin to Shaelox, travels to the city of Mystic in the east in order to retrieve the Torguscept and destroy Chonossar.  He teams up with Dergous (a self-proclaimed scholar) and Diana (a strong willed daughter of Litas' only sword-maker) as well as two dwarves in a quest to rid the world of the remnant of Omrontus' evil.
    I am currently a monthly writer and editor for a newsletter with a circulation of about 300.  I have also taken two creative writing courses at [redacted].
    Please contact me if you would be interested in reading my synopsis or sample chapters.  If you have further questions, I can be reached through email or by phone ([redacted]).  Thank you for your time.  I look forward to your response.

-Matt Wuertz

His response was, "No thanks."  Really?  You're not interested in a quest to find the Torguscept in order to stop Chonossar?  Perhaps you missed the plot through all of these esoteric names.  It's a wonder he could even type a response between fits of laughter.

I think I'm better with query letters now.  At least, I hope so.  Time will tell...

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