Chip MacGregor

September 15, 2015

Bad Queries! Get 'yer Bad Queries!


I regularly get people sending me notes asking, “Why haven’t you shared any bad proposals with us lately?” So this morning I sat down and gathered together a bunch of the great projects people have sent my way over the past several months…
—I received a proposal that starts with this line: “A serial killer masquerading as a priest is brutally Pitch Book Covermurdering convicted rapists….”  He also notes that his killer “blots out child rapists.” It ends with these words: “This is a family-friendly story.” And he also notes in his proposal that “kids loved it.” (Yeah… nothing sells books like the family-friendly combination of serial killers, rapists, and children.) 
—And here’s a great bit of salesmanship from an author (the title and author’s name has been changed): “After reading MY BLOODY LOVER visual trailer, who do not like to see MY BLOODY LOVER made into a movie? Tell me now!!!!! I, Dong ValDong, have been told many times this is the greatest horror romance ever written and women around the world are in love or in lust with me that I am in no hurry to shoot MY BLOODY LOVER into a full feature. I will let them salivate and be romance for the taste of their dream man in the pages of MY BLOODY LOVER. Read the magic of the dialogues of what your lover should be saying to you, as my character in the world of MY BLOODY LOVER. BELIEVE IN TRUE LOVE AGAIN.” (I believe!) 
—Speaking of romance, I culled out this great line from a romance query:Balloons don’t even scratch the surface of what you mean to me…” (Um… what?)
—One of my favorite opening lines of all times in a query? “Ring! Ring! said the telephone.” (Yes. It’s brilliant writing like this that led me to drink.) 
—And another romance query came in with this biographical note: “I have written and illustrated a book that is styled and formatted as a children’s book for adults. That’s right. A children’s book for adults.” (It’s always a good selling point to repeat the really inane parts of your query.)
—I also got in a nonfiction query in which the author, a woman going through breast cancer surgery, tells the story of her two breasts leaving her body and “traveling to foreign lands, and commenting to each other along the way.” (I wonder if they ever get into arguments. It would be, you know, tit for tat.)
—Also got this humdinger: I’ve solved multiple thousand year old philosophical, religious and scientific contradictions that can change the world. Please contact me if you are interested. I write about about very new and intriguing concepts relative to every culture and society. So far i have had over a hundred people tell me I have changed their life.” (I suggest you call and ask him to change your life. Right now.)
—I’ve tweaked the title of this one, to protect the innocent, but you’ll love the wording: “The name of my manuscript(book) is The Really Cool Encyclopedia. It is similar to a dictionary but I have not writing just a book. It is an encyclopedia. This book is unique and take 5 years to prepare and is about any terms of schooling, business, money, investing, engineering and etc. this book is unique because have more than 30,000 words and terms with complete explanation. In the book market we don’t have any similar sample. This book will using by many people in a lot of subjects. Educational such as professors, students and researchers in all of universities and colleges. Professions such as bankers and specialists in all of relation companies. This book is The far-reaching new developments, challenges and opportunities that have arisen in whole of centuries and is fully reflected in the explanations. This book don’t have any similar works in specific fields so it satisfy the needs of all student in financial subjects.” (How can you resist this?) 
—I also got this winner: “Query letter for Final Book of Angels — An ancient angel awakens; true account and gospel of a reincarnated, resurrected, angelified Biblical prophet. A true story.” (That’s it. And it must be true, since this guy is on the internet.)
—Sticking with our apocalyptic theme, I received this in an email: “I am seeking a literary agent for a historic time-sensitive manuscript. It’s a mind blowing non-fictional spiritual autobiography/prophecy of Holy Grail reincarnated Biblical prophet Amos, the winged messenger for the 21st century in Boise Idaho.” (Really. Boise, Idaho. The author goes on to note that he needs to publish it before the end of the world, which he says is December 21st. So if you owe somebody money on a gambling debt, I’d try to push them off to January. Just in case.) 
—Or this one, which is a doozy: “Even as a subatomic singularity slowly implodes the Earth, gang war has erupted on the streets of the notorious, mutant-infested neighborhood.” I’m a sucker for great sci-fi, of course. He goes on to note that the major characters are named “Babyhead and The Human Foetus,” but the book also features a character named Ipsy-Tay, a “self-aware sub-atomic black hole,” and he notes there’s a private eye who is “eating his own face.” (Just makes you want to rush out and see the movie, doesn’t it?)
—A favorite of mine, of course, is getting sent a collection of poems. Since, you know, it says on my website, “We don’t represent poetry.” And it says in my bio, “Chip does not represent poetry.” And I tell people at conferences, “I’m not a sensitive guy, so please don’t send me your poetry.” So what do I get this week? This: “Dear Agent – I know you said you don’t represent poetry, but I thought you might be interested in my epic poem about the end of the world.” (So true… because if you don’t represent poetry, getting LONG poetry is so much better.)
—Speaking of poetry, I got this: “Dear Literary Agent – I’ve written a collection of poems that I feel are worthy to be published and read by people.” (A strong start, you’ve got to admit.) He goes on to say that he is a Poet looking for an agent, that he has “earned the respect of other poets,” and notes that his poems were crafted for “the woman I love.” (Which is swell, I guess. In a way. If you do poetry. And I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but I don’t.) 
—So, a true story: The guy above sent this to 77 agents, all in the same email. True. My name, and 76 other agent names, were in the “to” line of his query. So I sent him back a note that read: “Dear Poet  looking for an Agent — Hello, my name is Chip MacGregor, and I’m a longtime agent that I feel has earned the respect of writers who took the time to learn something about the industry before writing me. You, on the other hand, just typed in a bunch of random names and sent us all the same message — something we all find laughably bad. Here’s a tip for you: If you’d spent five minutes researching my name, you’d have discovered that I don’t represent poetry. (If you’d spent ten minutes, you would have found a bunch of helpful tips such as “don’t send a blanket email out to people and start with the words ‘dear literary agent.’”) All the best to you, that lovely woman you’re about to marry, and your future in poetry as a career.” (And yes, he got mad. As I said, poets are sensitive people.) 
Hey, if you want to figure out how to create a great query, check out the book I co-authored with Holly Lorincz, Step by Step Pitches and Proposals: A Workbook for WritersIt will help you walk through the process of creating a great query letter. And the ebook is only five bucks! 
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  • hofvarpnir says:

    These proposals were sent to you as private correspondence. I would go so far as to say it’s unethical to post their contents for the world to see – they were meant for your agency’s eyes only. Why should anyone submit anything to your agency when they know that they might be publically mocked for daring to dream?

    It is cruel to make fun of the hopeful, no matter how clumsy or unrefined their work may be. Reject and move on! (And no – I’ve never been rejected or mocked, so this is not “bitterness”. It’s empathy with my fellow writers. Writing is difficult enough as it is; we don’t need agents using us as comedy material for their blogs.).

  • Andy Dunn says:

    “Babyhead and the Human Foetus”


  • Peter DeHaan says:

    Does the poet earn any credit for at least knowing you don’t represent poets? Or does he receives a double demerit for knowing that and sending his pitch anyway?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      It doesn’t matter — the true poetic soul knows he and I are oneness. And oneness is totality. Watch out for Tibetan yaks in the spring. (My attempt at a poetic response.)

    • Peter DeHaan says:

      “So true, man,” as he repeatedly snaps fingers to express agreement. (My attempt to appropriately respond to your great poetry)

  • Chip, you’re simply a poetry-hater and terrible poopie head. And here I was set to send you “Ozzie,” my totally revamped take on Ozymandias. The money you could have had. The fame you could have enjoyed. The accolades you could have swam? swum? swimmed? floated in. Your loss, pal. Your loss.

  • A.E Sawan says:

    I started reading and praying at the same time, hoping my query to you did not make the list. After reading the above, I feel better. Now I know why agents take so long to reply, not the thousands of queries they are getting (like they want us to believe). They are laughing so hard all day and sharing them. BTW, the (Tit for Tat) should be copy written.

  • Carolyn Astfalk says:

    You couldn’t make these up. But wait, someone did. Still trying to wrap my mind around the reincarnated, resurrected, angelified Biblical prophet. If you could resurrect, why bother with the reincarnation? And I think reincarnation requires a body of some kind, so no angels there. But, it’s a true story, so . . .

  • Jodie Bailey says:

    I dunno, Chip. This whole post made me think you are sensitive enough for poetry. Really. And what have you got against BALLOONS?!? Okay, I swear, that’s the last time I’ll mention it. But this time, you started it.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Balloons can’t even scratch the surface of how I feel about your writing, Jodie… Neither can butter. Or suntan lotion.

  • Nora says:

    Chip, once again you tell us what NOT to do. Thanks for being not so sensitive and sharing such wonders of terribleableness.

  • Bronwyn says:

    This was such a funny read (“tit for tat” had me chuckling out loud), and also tremendously encouraging because—should I ever write a query letter—it gives me hope that crazier fools than I have pitched before 🙂

  • Chip, you left out the ubiquitous clincher: “God gave me this story,” sometimes linked to the phrase, “and He told me you’d get it published.” Maybe you’re saving that for your book…or perhaps the epic poem you’re writing.

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