Monday, May 21, 2012

Query Letter Confusion: When One Agent Says A and Another Says B

Recently, I went to a writer's conference and paid an extra $140 to see an agent. Her advice contradicted other advice from a previous agent whose advice contradicted a previous agent, whose advice contradicted a previous agent, and so on.

The whole experience left me feeling a little like this (best with sound OFF)

My history of contradictions

2008: I write first draft of a travel memoir
- Agent A:
- "No market for travel memoir, add more personal stuff make it memoir."
- "Also, remove analogy in query letter saying book 'combines person journey of Eat, Pray, Love (EPL) with sexual frustration of Portnoy's Complaint.' Publishers are tired of hearing about EPL, and Portnoy is too old."

(for sample of query letter, see Query Letter Circa 2008)

2009: I rewrite as a memoir
- Agent B:
- "No market for memoirs unless you're a Kennedy.
- Also, I like your query letter." (Still had EPL and Portnoy in query letter.)

2010: I rewrite as a novel (add fictitious characters, places, change plot.)
- Agent C (after reading first 20 pages and query letter)
- "How much of this story is true?
- Me: "Maybe 10 - 25 percent. I have visited all the countries in the book."
- Agent: "Have you ever thought of making this a travel memoir? Also, kill reference to Portnoy; all people think about is the masturbation scene."

2012: Rewriting novel again, now none of it is true, but I'm having a blast writing it. I remove reference to EPL and Portnoy in query letter.
- Agent D:
- "Not really sure of genre or positioning of this book."
- Me: "Well, it's kind of like the personal journey of Eat, Pray, Love with the sexual frustration of Portnoy's Complaint."
- Agent 4: "I like that, put that up high in query letter."

(for a sample of query letter, see Query Letter Circa 2012)

Upshot: All agents' comments conflicted and made sense. In the end, I'm going to pick and choose and cross my fingers that someone likes it. For example, instead of Portnoy and EPL, I'm going to follow one suggestion and mention current authors with books with similar themes: "The Ask," by Sam Lipsyte and most stuff by Jonathan Tropper.

For Publishing Tips and Tribulations, see:

- Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Tips
Change you traffic measuring tool, join a Facebook Like-fest, and if anyone asks: "But officer, everyone else is doing it."

-  Book Marketing for Nitwits: Keyword Phrases
What's my brand? Who's my audience? Who cares? I don't have all day for this; just help me boost my traffic enough to impress an agent.