Example of a Mind-Boggling Horrible Query

Guest blogger Ric Klass shows writers just about everything you SHOULDN’T do in a query letter.  The hilarious result is below.  Enjoy.

Guest blog column
by Ric Klass



December 17, 2008

Ms. Agent
William Morris Agency
1825 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10012

Hi Mr. Agent,

You’ve finally got a good book to represent. MINE. The word is out that you’re the best agent in the world. Now’s your chance to prove it. I’m thinking of calling my book Gone With The Wind II. Pretty sweet, huh? I’m using the same characters, Rhett Butler and all that.  My understanding is that the publisher will have no problem getting the approval to do that from the family’s state. But here’s the catch … Tara will be in outer space this time!!!! Whoa! I bet this is the best idea you’ve heard in weeks or maybe ever. A bestseller for sure. By the way, I’m wrote the book on my lunch breaks (more on that later).

I’ve contacted about two hundred other agents and saved the best for last —- YOU. They’re crazy not to have leaped at this ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY. I warn you, Mr. Agent, you may not get another chance like this one. Even though I read you only represent nonfiction, this is your chance to get into the fiction game where more interesting stories can be told.

I’ve discussed my ideas for the book with several of my friends at CVS where I work and they all LOVE IT! Obviously, dumdum,  you will too. Right now I’m just stocking the shelves, but I think the manager might promote me to cash register. After all I worked there for nearly eight years and hardly took any time off except for the time I spend in prison fighting a false arrest for attacking one the agents I contacted who wouldn’t answer even one of my hundreds of phone calls— the dirty bastard. But I’ll get even with him.  I know you’re not that kind of guy. From what I’ve read, you’re a straight shooter.

The book is nearly done. I’ve almost finished page 12. Once begun is half done as they say. You should know that I need at least a $100,000 advance. And I need it NOW. You can’t believe how expensive lawyers are. (Don’t worry I won’t sue you, too!)  From what I’ve read, you agents usually get 10 or 15 percent off the top. I’m willing to double it if you can send me at least $25,000 NOW. Since my idea is a sure thing, you should have no problem with this deal. You should also know I don’t suffer welchers if you no what I mean. You had better not tell my great idea to some other writer and going around me!!!!  By the way, although your Web site said to include a synopsis, I thought I wouldn’t waste my time since you’re sure to take on my book anyway. Instead (as I’m sure you noticed) enclosed in this giant box you just opened is a case of my favorite Skippy peanut butter just to let you know I’m no piker (in the case that I find another agent first before we sine on the dotted line, please send me $30 (in cash) to cover my expenses and the postage).

Right now the water drops you see on this page are real tears. I really need and DESERVE to have my book published.  I’ve taken the liberty of following you to your home in Rye, NY, so I can deliver the manuscript any time you say directly to your place and hand it to one of your cute kids if you’re not there (By the way, your wife is good looking too. NICE GOING! but she should keep the curtains closed – there are so wackos out there, ya know … never can be too sure). But like I said, I’ll need a few days to finish the book. If for some reason I don’t hear from you in a day or so, you can expect to see me on your doorstep. (I’m sure it would have just slipped your mind. Ha Ha Ha Ha.!!!)  Or you can except my offer by mail. I’ve enclosed an envelope for your secretary to address. She can stamp it too. Rich agents like you don’t need me to save them chump change, right?  Right.


Joe Writer

914-555-2054 (My girlfriend’s number cause my phone is disconnected due to a bill miscommunication.  Don’t even think of fuggin trying to hit on her or else!)

P.S.  BTW, if you do hit on her, send money today and I’ll forgot the whole thing (and not tell your wife!).


Ric Klass is the author of Man Overboard: Confessions
of a Novice Math Teacher in the Bronx, a narrative
nonfiction book published late 2006. The New York Times
selected Man Overboard for its “Great Read In The Park”
book fair.  The book was chosen for The National Press
Club’s 29th Annual Book Fair and Authors’ Night.  

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11 thoughts on “Example of a Mind-Boggling Horrible Query

  1. Meg

    These sorts of things are funny, but so obvious that they’re not useful as instruction.

    What would be more helpful is printing examples of "not quite there" query letters and pointing out why they’re not getting good responses. Thanks.

  2. Dave Clark

    This is one of many lessons that need to be compiled into guidebook form by somebody. I’d like to add a few tips I’ve never heard: If each of your queries isn’t a perfect presentation, well, you may eventually get an agent–but it may be YEARS. Authoring a book and querying agents is two different things, so send out one query at a time and assume the last one you sent had a problem, so rewrite it, tighten it, and pay more attention each time to the agent’s requests. Famous best-selling works were rejected many times; consider the potential best-sellers that never saw print because the author had ineffective queries. And, just because you were published once doesn’t mean doors open for you; I did everything right with my (unagented) nonfiction book but I’m a rookie all over again with a novel-to-be.

  3. Marian

    The only thing the "writer" forgot to add was that he’d sent the manuscript to every editor in the industry as well, slipping it under a bathroom stall on one occasion.

    The Skippy peanut butter line keeps cracking me up. Great post!


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  5. Les Edgerton

    Hi Chuck,
    Funny stuff! Actually, I’m sending you a msg here as I don’t know your email. Just a bit concerned as Jane Friedman hasn’t been on her blog since Dec. 3 and I know she was stuck in Thailand. Hate to bother you, as I know you’re a busy guy, but if you get a sec can you drop me a line and let me know if she’s all right?

    Blue skies,
    Les E.

  6. Lisa

    I don’t get it. What’s wrong with the letter? I thought it was waay cool. By the way, if your girlfriend kicks you out, you can’t stay on my couch – so don’t ask. I’m back living with one of my kids, and they get a little picky about stuff like that.


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