9 am and 73 degrees.
My good friend and author HOLLY KENNEDY has graciously placed her query letter that got her representation on her blog, and I thought I would do the same. I think it is interesting to see the difference between snail mail, versus email (Holly's was snail mail and mine was email). I also show the original 5 pages which were pasted at the bottom of the e-query. If you notice, I set it up pretty much like a business letter even though it was sent electronically -- This was so I could print it out and know who I sent it to, and have addresses there just in case an agent wanted a full or partial sent snail mail. Everything is together and easy to find.
After it was sent, I copied the whole email and placed in a file under LOTTERY marked SENT. I made files inside marked: PARTIAL, FULL, and REJECTIONS, then moved the queries from one to another after each response so I had a record.
When my website goes live and you read the excerpt of LOTTERY placed there, I believe it will be of interest for you to see how the final version has changed from the original. For example: The word count is now 85,000. The date my character wins the lottery shifts. The amount of his lottery win increases. His name is changed from Jerry to Perry. His age lowers so that in the beginning of the story he is 31 and it ends when he is 32. Additionally there are the edits I have done for my editor. It has been fascinating so far.
For your interest, I am also including dates, times, and Dorian's initial response below.
DATE: 11:15 a.m. June 23, 2006
(My name address phone and email)
William Morris Agency
1325 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10019
Dear Dorian Karchmar,
I understand you are interested unusual fiction. I would like to show you my novel LOTTERY. The first five pages are included below. My book could be described as "Forrest Gump" wins Power Ball, however it differs in the respect that it is written in the realistic voice of a cognitively challenged man and could be considered a parable of our times.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Gram would go to Hawaii. Keith would go to Mexico. Jerry would go to Pennsylvania and tour the Hershey Candy Factory.
"I am not retarded. To be retarded your IQ number must be lower than 75. Mine is 76.” Jerry L. Crandall is lucky. Gram says so.
He has two good eyes, is honest as the day is long, and has two brothers, one an attorney, the other an MBA. But Jerry calls his mother Cynthia, his siblings cousin-brother, and has lived with his grandmother since he was a baby.
At thirty-six, he has worked for Holsted's Marine Supply for twenty years.
On November 10, his life and the lives of his family will change forever when Jerry wins four million dollars in the Washington State Lottery.
No one will ever look at Jerry quite the same way again.
I had the pleasure of working with Jacqueline Mitchard at the Maui Writers Retreat and we have maintained a regular email correspondence. When I told her the premise of my latest novel she asked to see the synopsis and first chapter. After reading it, she strongly suggested I obtain representation. I've additionally been fortunate to have Paul Theroux as a mentor (he spends his winters here in Hawaii). He is quite enthusiastic about this project, and also recommended I actively seek representation after reading the second draft of my book.
I am currently working on my PhD in education at the University of Hawaii. My cognate (minor) focuses on disability and diversity. I am committed to my writing career and have other novels completed. LOTTERY is commercial fiction and is complete at 72,000 words. I would be honored to send you the manuscript and look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely and Aloha,
My name is Jerry L. Crandall. I am not retarded. You have to have an IQ number less than 75 to be retarded. I read that in Reader’s Digest. I am not. Mine is 76. Gram always told me the L stood for Lucky.
"Mister Jerry Lucky Crandall quicher bellyaching!" She would scold. "You got two good eyes, two good legs, and you're honest as the day is long." She always called me lucky and honest. Being honest means you don't know any better.
My cousin-brother John calls me lucky too, but he always snickers hard after he says it.
"You sure are a lucky bastard. No high-pressure job, no mortgage, no worries. Yeah, you’re lucky all right." Then he looks at his wife and laughs harder. They are lawyers.
John told me lawyers get people out of trouble. Gram said lawyers get people into trouble. She ought to know. It was a lawyer that gave her the crappy advice on what to do about Gramp's business after he died.
"I never should have listened to him. Should have waited. Look at John. Look at that guy he defended. That stock crap. That accountant. You can’t tell me he didn’t get a little payola on the side." Her gray hair would come out of her bun like it was mad too.
I am thirty-six years old and I am not retarded.
"You have two good ears, Jerry. Two! Count ‘em!" Gram would hold my chin and cheeks between her fingers so tight my lips would feel like a fish. She stopped doing that because of the evil arthritis. Arthritis is when you have to eat Aleve or Bayer and rub Ben Gay.
"You're lucky." She said. "No evil arthritis for you. You’re a lucky, lucky boy."
I am lucky. I know this because I am not retarded. I know this because I have two good arms. And I know this because I won four million dollars in the Washington State Lottery.
I write things down so I do not forget. From the beginning. From before the beginning. Writing helps me remember. It helps me think and that is a good thing. I am slow, that is what my teacher Miss Elk said.
"Just a bit slow, Jerry." The other kids had different names.
“Moron! Idiot! Retard!” They cried with tongues and fingers pointing. But Miss Elk told them to be nice. She said I was not any of those things.
Gram said other people are just too fast. She told me to write things down in a notebook.
"I'm not slow, I'm old. I have to write things down," she said. "People treat you the same way when you're old as when you're slow." Gram had me do a word a day in the dictionary since I was seven.
"A word Jerry. That’s the God damned key. One word at a time." God damned is an adjective. It can also be a noun like, "I'll be God damned!" Gram will be reading something in the newspaper and it will just come out all by itself. Out of the blue. "God damn." Or sometimes "GOD damned." Or even, "God DAMNED." At eleven, I was on page eight of our dictionary.
"Active. Change, taking part." It is a struggle for me to read.
"Sound it out Jer." Gram chews the inside of her lip when she concentrates.
"Squiggle vooollll...caaaa...nooo..." It takes me a long time to figure out that word.
"Squiggle means related to. Remember Mount Saint Helens?" Gram has a good memory for an old person and knows everything. On May 18, Mount St. Helens blew up. Six days after my birthday. We had ashes from breakfast to Sunday, Gram said. They were a fine gray sand that got inside my mouth when I went outside, just like the stuff Doctor Reddy used when he cleaned my teeth.
"What’s breakfast to Sunday?" I asked.
"Don’t be smart." Gram always cautioned me about being smart.
I was still in the A's. Gram and I sat down and added it up. Our dictionary has 75,000 words and 852 pages. If I did one word a day, it would take me 205 years to finish. At three words, it would take 51 years. If I did five words, it would take 12 years and six months to get through the whole book. I wrote this all down. It is true because calculators do not lie and we used a calculator. Gram said we needed to re-think. Re-think means that you made a mistake and have to change your mind. You don't want to say you were wrong so you re-think.
"Pick up the pace Jer. We have to pick up the pace." Gram clapped her hands together to get my attention and make sure I was listening. I remember I was on the word auditor. An auditor is a listener. It says so in the dictionary. I decided right then to be an auditor. A listener. I remember this.
We picked up the pace and by the time I turned thirty-five, I was on page 337. Gram was right. That day my words were herd, herder, herdsman, here, here, hereabouts and hereafter. Hereafter means future.
"You have to think of your future!" Gram warns about the future each time I deposit my check in the bank. Half in checking and half in savings. For my future. It is very important to think of your future because at some point it becomes your past.
My best friend Keith agrees with everything Gram says.
"That L. It sure does stand for Lucky." Keith drinks beer wrapped in a brown paper sack. He works with Manuel, Gary, and me at Holsted's Marine Supply. I have worked for Gary Holsted since I was sixteen years old.
Keith is older and fatter than me. I do not call him fat because that would not be nice. He cannot help being older. I can always tell how old people are by the songs they like. For example, Gary and Keith like the Beatles so they are both older than me. Gram likes songs you never hear anymore like Crazy For You by Patsy Cline and Always by somebody who is dead. If the songs you like are all by dead people then you are really old.
I like every kind of music. Keith does not. He goes crazy when Manuel messes with the radio at work.
“Who put this rap crap on? Too much static! The reception is shit! Keep it on oldies but goodies.” Keith has to change it back with foil and a screwdriver because of the reception. Static is when somebody else plays music you do not like and you change it because of reception.
Before Holsted's, I learned reading, writing, and math from Gram and boat stuff from Gramp. After he died, I had to go to work. I remember everything Gramp showed me about boats and sailing. Our family used to own the boatyard next to Holsted's.
"It's a complicated situation." When Gram says this, her eyes get all hard and dark like olive pits, or like when you try to look through that tiny hole in the door at night. That is not a very smart thing to do because it is dark at that time and you cannot see very well.
Just before he died, Gramp took out a loan for a hoist for the yard. A loan is when someone gives you money then takes collateral and advantage. After that, you drop dead of a stroke by the hand of God. A hoist lifts boats up in the air and costs as much as a boat yard.
That's what the bank said.
FIVE MINUTES LATER...
FROM: Dorian Karchmar
DATE: 11:20 a.m. June 23, 2006
I'd like to see this. Feel free to send via email. I would appreciate an
exclusive read on it for 3 weeks. If that is not possible, just keep me
in the loop if other agent interest arises. I'll be out of town until
July 5th, but will look forward to reading upon my return.
I will ask Holly to talk about the road to representation and I will do the same.
Ask any questions you want about the querying process.
Does seeing these letters help you clarify what an agent is looking for?
What else would you like to know?