Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Now, Back To Business

So back when I was still a hopeful young sprout and capable of things like researching agents and sending out query letters and so forth, I learned a lot. Mostly what I learned is that if you want to get a book published, you should write a book on how to get a book published.
Because obviously, everyone in the whole damn world has written a book and wants to see it in print. And then of course, up on the big screen. Starring Will Smith and Angelina Jolie.
Or in my case, Ashley Judd and, well, I never did figure out who the dude character would be played by.
I wanted to play the mama.
The first agent query letter I sent out was to a woman agent I'd actually seen speak. So I wrote my pathetic and humble little I-am-no-one-and-my-book-probably-sucks-but-wouldn't-you-like-to-see-it letter to her.
Frankly, I had two problems.
One, the theme of the letter was I am no one and my book probably sucks and the other was that I sent this query out about one week after 9/11 and the agent's office was in NYC.
Yep. I did.
And the letter I got back from her wasn't even addressed to me and got the title of my book wrong.
So I learned a few things.
After awhile, my query letters got better and I started getting REAL letters back from agents that sounded, if not exactly enthusiastic, at least slightly more positive. A few asked to see the manuscript. And so it went.
As I gained a little bit of confidence, I started having more fun with my query letters. I mean, why the hell not?
And the one that I finally wrote that actually got a LOT of attention, and finally an agent, although that didn't work out so well, was bizarrely over the top. For your amusement, I will copy part of it here.

Thanks for listening.

"From the pen of the newest undiscovered author comes a blockbuster read! In the tradition of Connie May Fowler, Lee Smith, Fannie Flagg and Rebecca Wells, Mary Moon has given us another salty, strong and vibrant Southern woman to love. In her first novel, The Yearning Heart of Apalachicola Rose, Ms. Moon has created a character with heart and soul who learns just how strong and capable she is when her husband, a no-good pretty boy truck-driver named Billy, leaves her and their four children one beautiful spring morning to go and live with his new love, a woman in Oklahoma, leaving Rose with nothing but a shattered heart, a broken dream, and a six-pack of Budweisers in the refrigerator. After Rose drinks the beer, cuts her hair, and cries on her red-headed mama’s shoulder, she realizes that she cannot afford the luxury of wallowing in misery and so, like Scarlett O’Hara faced with the coming of the Yankees, Rose cuts down her curtains and makes a dress!
No! She doesn’t do that at all!
She gets on with her life and despite the fact that she has only a high-school education and a part-time job as a waitress, she manages to support and nurture her little family, survive the terrible Florida heat and: her gossiping small town neighbors, a major hurricane and the passes of an oysterman with very few teeth! This little Southern gal has spunk!
And then, into Rose’s backyard and life walks Raymond- a man with a beard! A man with a motorcycle! A man with a past! A man who knows how to decorate! Despite that, he really is “all man” and this all-man teaches Rose what love is all about! From their first lusty encounter under a full moon on the deserted white sands of beautiful St. George Island to the fulfilment of their passion in Raymond’s futon, Rose and Raymond are destined to be together!
But are they? Will Billy come back and reclaim the woman that he believes to be his and his alone? Will Rose succumb to Billy’s old charm and fall back into the life that she now knows is empty and false?
These and many other questions (including- will Rose get kicked out of the state of California for not knowing what Tofutti is?) will keep you reading long after your regular bedtime.
A full set of real characters accompany Rose on her journey to happiness. Black and white, gay and straight, Rose’s friends and family are there with her, every step of the way, making sure that the picturesque town of Apalachicola is populated in a colorful and amusing way.
Ms. Moon writes with passion and with authority. The reader cannot help but think, “By golly! Here’s a new voice with passion and authority!” From page one, to page last, this is a book. A real book. Read it and laugh. Read it and cry. Read it and remember what it is that we read books for! “Made me restart my book club!” Oprah “Gave me the strength to carry on!” Bill Clinton “Made me want to be a Southern woman!” Norman Mailer “Inspired my newest album!” Bob Dylan “Made me want to go back and work at the Dairy Queen again!” Anna Nicole “Laughed so hard I broke a rib and couldn’t do yoga for a month!” Madonna “Cried so hard that I had to get my Botox redone!” Anonymous

Okay. Do you see how desperate and insane the trying-to-get-an-agent process will make you?
I believe I've proved my point.


  1. ....and yet you retained the writing style that made you famous on the southern blog circuit!

    "I laughed till my spleen fell out!"

  2. The Southern Blog Circuit? Is that like the chittlin' circuit. I would think so.
    Go find that spleen! You might need it.

  3. It's a good point.

  4. The horros of the slush pile...


    The most soul destroying exercise in the world. I occasionally thought of 'take on this book or I'll come round and break your legs'.

    Probably as well I didn't. Life is to short to explain to the police I didn't really mean it...

  5. like Scarlett O’Hara faced with the coming of the Yankees, Rose cuts down her curtains and makes a dress!

    No! She doesn’t do that at all!

    That part made me honest to god laugh out loud.

  6. White Rabbit- you English barristers are just a hoot! Y'all need to come to Florida and entertain us. Really. Come on.

    DTG- I live to serve.

  7. I meant it in a good way....I really did laugh a ton at the letter. I thought it was very good!

  8. No, Bro WB. I took what you said as funny. I knew you meant that in the best possible way.
    Funny how no one has said, "Whoa! I REALLY want to read that book now."

  9. In case you're still doing revisios: There were some credibility issues in the excerpt/review - Billy would have never left an unopened 6 pack of beer in the fridge. Perhaps Rose found some change in the sofa cushions and bought a 6-pack. Lose 1 or 2 of the kids, unless they're necessary to advance the plot. (Or else name them Adam, Beth, Cathy Dennis - A,B,C,D, so people reading it can get them straight.) And, perhaps take a creative writing class at the nearest university, only because he instructor may have some leads for you to use to get published.

  10. Oh, no. That book, she is written! Unless of course a real honest-to-god editor gets ahold of it and wants changes.
    Our nearest university (FSU) does indeed have a fine writing program and I've thought about it. But it costs big bucks to get the good teachers. Who have been published themselves.
    But it's a good idea. It truly is.

  11. I happen to know that a certain author and prof at FSU is fond of sundried tomato and banana pepper calzones and frosty micro brew beer, though he will drink PBR if someone else is buying. All I'm saying is a little bribery goes a long way. And getting people drunk.

  12. Set me up, baby girl!
    Just kidding. Save him for YOUR book.


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