Friday, June 18, 2010

Non-fiction query letter #2

Agent X
NSW 2021

Dear Agent X,
Thank you for your time when I phoned last week and for agreeing to read my submission for Last Drinks in Vienna (working title), which is a Non-Fiction/ Memoir [Why the caps? The German influence on English ran out around the time of King George III] about the years I spent running my own Pub [Again! Proper noun alert!] in Vienna [I'll let you have this capital letter].

It is not a Travel Narrative [And again! Can you see that I'm getting distracted by this one grammatical tic to the point that I'm not paying the same amount of attention to your letter? That's all it takes], but more a story about a life spiralling out of control with both funny and sad consequences and learning you can’t runaway from your problems—with help from an eccentric cast of characters. [This could describe any number of stories - what is different about your story? Why should I read your submission more closely than anyone else's? Just because we talked on the phone doesn't mean I'll remember what you told me - it also doesn't guarantee that it's me who's reading the submission, so you'll need to write the letter as if the reader has no idea who you are.]

Please find enclosed:
• Synopsis
• Chapter summaries/ book outline
• Prologue
• Part One (4 chapters)

I believe the Chapter [Again! In what dictionary does 'chapter' have a capital letter!! Now I'm really worked up!!!] summaries will give you a clear idea where the story goes and that it can maintain reader interest till the end.
I hope the sample chapters will show you it is written with depth and humour.
I believe, also, that it has great potential in the German language market. [Why? Because it's set in Austria? Austria is a small market and the Germans probably think they're already publishing too many books about Austria.] I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely, ['Sincerely' - capital S!!!!]


Verdict: Fail. You didn't tell me anything about yourself apart from the fact that you ran a pub in Vienna. This alone is not enough to spark my interest, and thus it's not going to spark the interest of a publisher - or a reader. You also didn't tell me anything about the manuscript apart from the fact that it's about you running a pub in Vienna. And, as you can see, I became increasingly exercised over your use of capital letters on nouns (and elsewhere). Anyone on the publishing/agenting/editing side of the industry is likely to be a pedant and they will notice typos and grammatical errors if they're repeated. The capitalisation of random nouns is a practice that no doubt started in the advertising and real estate sectors - 'Renovator's Dream! Only need to upgrade Kitchen!' - and I see it a lot in query letters. A novel is not a Novel.

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