Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dear Agent,

I am writing because you have represented a number of sad and depressing books, so I thought you might be interested in Last Breath, a complete fiction novel at 235,000 words. My book can be marketed to readers of all ages, as long as they enjoy crying.

Claire Andrews is a morbidly obese but good-natured eighth-grade dropout with an enormous port-wine birthmark on her face in the unlikely shape of Mississippi, the heat-stricken, impoverished state where she was born and soon will die.

Claire got pregnant at 14 by her boyfriend, Horace, a farmhand with mild mental retardation and a tendency toward violence. They were forced into a shotgun marriage; although she never loved him, she knew she would never be able to do any better. But when their daughter is trampled to death by a runaway circus elephant, Horace has no reason to stick around, so he runs away with Evaline, Claire’s oldest and only friend.

Too overweight and depressed to work, Claire can no longer make the payments on her trailer. The bank forecloses. Homeless, destitute and abandoned by everyone, Claire thinks her situation can’t possibly get any more desperate. That’s when she learns she has terminal cancer.

With less than six months to live, Claire decides there’s only one thing to do. She must confront her history of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father.

I have no previous writing credits, but my caseworker and my parole officer both read Last Breath and loved it. Please send your offer of representation and the advance from the publisher within seven days. I need the money to get my car out of impound.

Petunia Peele

* * *

Dear Agent,

I am writing to let you know about my novel for young adult readers, which you may be interested in representing.

Margaret Chin’s parents have her whole life planned out. She will get top grades, ace her S.A.T.s and go to Stanford, where she will study to be an engineer. But Margaret has other plans, and a secret passion. For hardcore crunk dancing.

So, this bright young girl from the suburbs begins leading a double life, spending her days studying advanced calculus and her nights in L.A.’s network of underground hip-hop clubs, where she meets D.J. Crunkzilla, a flamboyant local legend as renowned for his epic flows and dirty beats as he is for making passionate love to a series of willing women on a dirty mattress in the abandoned warehouse where he squats. It is under his tutelage that Margaret begins a different kind of education.

But soon, Margaret is soon surprised to discover that hip-hop culture has a dark side, and she begins to suspect that some of her new friends may even be using illegal drugs such as marijuana. As she tries to pull back from the exotic lifestyle she’s been exploring, she begins to fear that she may already be in too deep.

After-Class Crunk Club is a complete novel at 65,000 words, with series potential. I have a Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Michigan, where I wrote a thesis on hip-hop music. I am currently a tremendous disappointment to my parents.

Dr. Penelope Hong

* * *

Dear Agent,

Failed writer Barry Squidge is depressed and contemplating suicide when he learns that the query letter for his universally-rejected novel has been posted as an example of “what not to do” on literary agent Kaitlyn Whiteacre’s widely read blog.

Enraged, Squidge kidnaps Whiteacre and demands publication in exchange for her release. But his plan backfires when the lead detective on the case describes his ransom note as “dull, unfocused, and thematically inconsistent,” and characterizes the hostage crisis as “hackneyed pablum, headed inevitably toward a trite and predictable conclusion.”

If you love suspense, you won’t want to miss Unsolicited Submissions, an 82,000 word thriller that I poured whatever was left of my soul into.

When considering this query, it may be relevant to consider the fact that I have taken pictures of your home, and I know where your kids go to school.

Best wishes,
Arnold Travis

Daniel Friedman is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and the N.Y.U. School of Law. He lives and works in New York City. He spends his spare time searching for Truth and, whenever he finds it, he usually figures out a few ways to improve it.

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