The Perfect Query Letter for Literary Agents

I somehow managed to secure a nanny from March 15th to April 30th. Here I am on April 12 writing a new book in solitude and with manic intensity. The bairns seem fine. They seem to enjoy running cons on the new mark.

I had put off querying a literary agent about The Harvard Skull Fiasco because I’d rather just work on the next book than, say, do anything else with my time. And so, the months passed by.

Then I realised that if I had an actual nanny I would no longer be the hostage of those two bairns of mine. I could write all day. I could visit them downstairs, descending from on high with an air of regal indulgence, whenever I felt inspired to do so. And they would run to embrace me, in white dresses and ribbons, while the nanny fades into the background … until eventually I would part from them, because daddy must go upstairs again, darlings, but he’ll be back among them when his important work is finished, and remember, children, no fires today…

It would be rad.

Problem is – I can’t afford a nanny. Then I remembered the existence of literary agents. Perhaps one of ‘em could get to the bottom of that ‘affording a nanny’ business, I thought. So I looked into it.

It turns out that querying agents is a very involved and time-consuming affair. Because of course it is, and nothing is ever simple, right?

Now, I don’t know everything; I don’t know why certain children feel such a pressing need for diverting conversation at 3am, for example, but I do know how to query a literary agent. Like everything else that I’ve done six times, I’m practically an expert.

Let me show you.

Dear Agent,

It appears that I really, really need a nanny, and am seeking representation because it would probably to be in everybody’s best interests at this point – apart from the managers of three separate credit card companies who are undoubtedly ecstatic to have me on their books and would ideally prefer my debt to stay up in the stratosphere, where it has been since I decided to quit my job at Harvard. By the way, I have written a book. I attribute this calamity to an overactive imagination and this is not, therefore, a state of mind I will be recommending to others.

If you foresee no objection – or in any way mind – would you please see your way to perusing, at your earliest convenience, the attached manuscript about an irresponsible individual who is not me but resembles me quite strongly in only the most obvious and recognizable ways. I also habitually wear a beanie whereas he, according to my text search for the word ‘beanie’ a moment ago, does not. I myself, on the other hand, am a very responsible individual in every way; I might have acquired some legitimate insight into the subject of irresponsibility, though through no fault of my own, of course. The managers of those three credit card companies, for instance, consider me highly responsible; responsible for their soaring first quarter profits, numerous staff bonuses and for funding two of their holiday parties. And, in case I have neglected to mention it lately, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard.

For promotional purposes I have meanwhile acquired some 26,000 newsletter subscribers, many of whom write to me demanding new cards (see wrongcards.com for more detail), or to accuse me of laziness; are they parents of small, hyper-intelligent gremlins? No, they are not, and I find the injustice of these emails vexing. Am I their messiah? Do I owe them blood? What do they want from me, and do they even know? Can I even afford a nanny? No, I cannot, hence this letter, which I hope finds you well.

Please read the attached novel, which is as filled with hard-won insider knowledge of a famous institution where I once worked – albeit, and to be fair, in a somewhat blue-collar, working-class situation which suited my background perfectly. I have, of course, made much progress in terms of upward class mobility since then, hence my usage of the word nanny, above. I also am on a first-name basis with two people who do pilates. Additionally, I have become well-seized of the zeitgeist, its spelling and use in sentences; I have thus made myself aware of the fading allure of vampires and zombies, and didn’t bother to include them in the narrative. My novel contains some exemplary comma usage, however, and demonstrates a more than passing familiarity with the standard rules of punctuation, unlike that hack James Joyce. There are also some particularly good bits about a dog.

In conclusion, I thank you in advance for your time, energy, attention and career choice. I hope that, this time at least, your lazy intern-slash-assistant has read this far and forwarded it to you. She is good-for-nothing and wants your job, as I’m sure you are well aware. So please read my book and find me a publisher, that I may soon afford a nanny and, in gratitude, become your dream client. I look forward to your form letter in 8-12 weeks, or the enigmatic silence that inevitably follows your assistant’s accidental deletion of this email whilst typing Babylon 5 fan fiction at her desk during office hours.

Yours with heartfelt sincerity,

Kris St.Gabriel

I am, as of April 12, still seeking representation. Just a matter of time, etcetera.