Monday, May 21, 2012

Versions of Query Letters

<Note: these query letter versions are background for a post called "Query LetterConfusion.">

1) Query Letter Circa 2008: Travel Memoir

Dear Agent A:

I think your author J. Maarten Troost is the funniest non-travel writer/travel writer. In Lost on Planet China, I really liked the addition of the chain-smoking sidekick, Jack.

My non-travel/travel book, Rats in the Lobby, Snakes in the Wine, chronicles how a never-married hypochondriac takes the trip of a lifetime and spends most of it alone reflecting on why he's still single at age 48. This 65,000-word memoir combines the personal journey of Eat, Pray, Love with the sexual frustration of Portnoy's Complaint.

2) Query Letter Circa 2012: Novel 

(Note new the new title. When I read this at a class run by two agents in New York in 2010, it drew laughs. Both agents requested to see the finished manuscript. An agent at a conference in 2012, didn't think it was funny and suggested I put back the line about "personal journey of Eat, Pray, Love with the sexual frustration of Portnoy's Complaint.")

Dear Agent D,

The Loneliest Planet features Randall Burns, a never-married hypochondriac who takes a trip around the world looking to change his luck with love. Planet is a novel about relationships as seen by a man, a difficult man.

An old Life cereal commercial starred a fussy boy named Mikey who hated everything. Imagine Mikey at 48, recently laid off, and spending his days pounding away on as if it were a game of Whac-A-Mole. That's Randall Burns.

One day, Burns reads a chirpy travel book promising love and romance abroad. Soon after, he blows his severance on a $20,000 solo trip overseas. During the journey, he strikes out with women on three continents, experiences loneliness that would have broken Papillon, and ruminates about old girlfriends. Jay with the cute shiksa nose dumped him because of a pair of socks. Ricki? A pair of shoes. Why hadn't he married Jackie with the nice trust fund? Why did all his exes have masculine names?

On continent four, he meets a Western sex tourist and his girlfriend du jour who offer a tour of Phnom Penh brothels. Burns is lonely and desperate. But he is also a germaphobe, and the one thing he fears more than dengue fever and squat toilets is V.D. In the end, he learns to enjoy undercooked beef, to embrace solitude, and to accept himself the way he is -- single.

Unlike Burns, I have kicked the habit and now focus my online energies building a platform by blogging, publishing a travel site, and using social media. I have taught travel seminars and read excerpts of Planet more than forty times at venues in New York and Boston. In 2011, an excerpt was a finalist in the Drum/Side B Dual Publication Award and was the winner in a Boston story slam. Previously, I was an executive editor at PC World magazine for seven years.

The Loneliest Planet is about 75,000 words long and ready for review.

<Back to main story on agent contradictions.>