Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sorry, We Are Not Interested in Representing You at This Time. Or Any Other Time

Dear Mr. Bookfraud:

Thank you for your interest in the S------- Literary Agency.

Your 34th query letter to us is quite well-written and entertaining. We appreciate the work that you put into it, especially how you were able to translate those vulgarities into Latin. I didn’t know the Romans had words for such things!

Also, I must say I was entertained by the fact you were able to find a head shot of mine and paste it to the top of that lovely drawing of Satan defecating on the "The Riverside Shakespeare." It’s amazing what computers can do today. Verrrry William Blake-esque indeed!

More satisfied clients

However, I am sad to say, once again, that we are still not interested in representing you at this time. Quite frankly, your idea for a book is stupid. Another literary alien-sex-in-a-landfill novel! It’s been done a thousand different times by a thousand different writers, all of whom are smarter, more talented, and probably more attractive than you are.

I think it might be a mistake for you to mention your blog in query letters, as you come off as an embittered, angry, middle-aged man with no literary success to speak of. You have to remember, Mr. Bookfraud, that even if you had a shred of talent, we aren’t really interested in fiction from people of your demographic.

You see, we are really interested in young, “hot” writers with “hot” ideas and, best of all, “hot” bodies. Unfortunately, it does not sound like you are a “hot” writer with “hot” ideas, and you don’t put your picture on your blog, so I don’t know if you’re “hot” looking. Since you don’t fill any these criteria, and probably don’t have a porn-star-sized cock, I can’t help you.

I must admit, that most writers are not particularly attractive. But unless you are the heir to James Joyce, write something “edgy,” or a book that’s going to sell at least 100,000 copies, I can’t help a struggling writer of your age and modest talent.

You see, for ever mid-list book that Oprah turns into a best-seller, there are thousands that fail. They might be very fine books indeed, but unfortunately, the publishing business cannot afford to publicize most books, as it often spends millions of dollars on a single advance. Not much left to throw around after you’ve blown a small fortune on a first-time memoirist or a young, untested writer with a porn-star cock!

Just kidding about the cock thing, if you think I'm obsessed or such. The fact of the matter is that if you’re an agent and are representing a good book, you want your writer to get as much as he or she deserves. Sometimes we throw it out to auction, and suddenly, by word of mouth, we have a "hot" property on our hands, and are getting advances of $1 million or more.

Now, if you were to take that million and instead give 20 advances at $50,000 each, you might think that would be in the publisher's favor. You’d have 19 more shots at publishing a best seller, right? If a single book flops, it’s no big deal, and though most of those 20 books won't be best sellers, a publishing house would be spreading risk.

Rejection hurts

Unfortunately, that would mean 20 different writers. And 20 different agents, or at least a dozen. Now, if I were to get 15 percent of a million, that pays for my mistress’ rent for a few months. But if I were to get 15 percent of just 50 grand, that would mean I couldn’t afford any mistresses at all! Or even a wife and two children – I’d just have to get rid of them!

Of course, that’s just the agent’s side of the equation. Editors at publishing houses are really stressed, too! Their bosses aren’t literary types like you and me — they’re bottom-line obsessed businessmen who were fired from jobs at places like World o’ Nails and Fertilizer Hut. They need mega-books to meet their quarterly numbers! And they pressure editors to get them.

There's also this little issue of remaindering, Mr. Bookfraud. If you were supplying McDonald's with Sphincter McNuggets, would you want to have to take back all those nasty, freezer-burned chunks of sphincter all back, and eat the cost (if not have to eat the Sphincter McNuggets)? You'd only want to make stuff people are going to buy
all of. Publishers thus have this perverse economic incentive to go for blockbusters all the time. All of the risk is on their shoulders, and it makes sense to try to hit a home run every time.

In other words, it’s not all my fault!

Does this make sense? Well, Mr. Bookfraud, I don’t care. You are obviously crazy, short-sighted, and not very interested in art, which means you are perfectly qualified for a career in the book business.

Good luck.

By the way, you don't have a porn-star cock, do you?