Friday 27 August 2010

How not to do it - worst query letter ever?

Just because you've written a good-enough submission to a publisher once (or more) doesn't mean you'll get it right every time, and doesn't mean it's easy the next time.

For great advice on writing a query letter (US term), read this
post by Ann Crispin of Writer Beware. But if you want an example of what not to do, look below.

The following was reported to me last night by a friend, publishing director of a very large publishing company which, you need to know, does not publish any fiction. The letter, with typos corrected, said:

To whom it may concern

I can't write very well but I thought I'd like to write a novel. I've decided to make my novel about pirates, but I don't know anything about pirates. Could you please send me some information about pirates, their lifestyle, what they do, so I can write my novel?



  1. Oh. My. (Words have now failed me.) On the other hand, this must surely be from a rather young child? Gosh, I hope so.

  2. No, it wasn't. It was from someone in Kansas, though - perhaps they had already exhausted all US publishers.

  3. I confess, it was me, this is where I've been going wrong then?

  4. I did hear George Bush was writing a book :)

  5. You don't fool me, Stroppy; this is just a subterfuge for another Jack Sparrow picture! I bet the letter really said "highwaymen" or "ghosts".

    But actually, I'm not surprised. Would be teen writers sometimes email me to ask for ideas or names for their characters. Whereas you might think these were things the writer wanted to have some personal responsibility for.

  6. Agreeing with Nicola. It really sounds like something my 7 year old would write. She'd never have gotten it to the mailbox but when I was that age, as what they're now calling a latchkey kid, I could have easily sent something like that. In fact.... No wait, I've never lived in Kansas. And I suppose you did say it was recent and my childhood most certainly was not.

    But it did make a good excuse for a Jack Sparrow picture and those are never bad.

  7. I would like to think that this was a joke. If not, wow! All I can say is wow! Real words cannot convey my stupefied state of mind right now.

  8. Oh dear exactly! I suppose it makes a slight change from the party-time favourite: "I'm sure people would love to hear about my amusing cat/dog/whatever. Don't suppose you'd like to write the book for me? I can give you all the ideas . ."