Ellen Denham had a nice example to work with It shows:
Laziness: Dear Agent or Editor: (I know I’m one of the two, but does this fictitious waster of time know which, and what my name might be?
Vagueness: I’m enclosing the first 500 pages of book one, in which the amazing story begins to unfold. I’m in the middle of book two now but I already know how book 3 will end. Lots of writers don’t know anything about what they write about, but I’ve been an avid fisherman for years, so I thought this was a natural subject for a trilogy. Of course, my fish live on another planet and fight evil monsters, so it’s much more exiting that way. People will be amazed when they read it. ( Notice the lack of anything about the crucial characters, plot, or how it is resolved. )
A lack of understanding for how the industry works:
Please call me as soon as you get this so I know it got there. I really look forward to working together. Of course, if you want something changed in the trilogy I’ll be glad to think about it. I’m flexible. If you don’t have time to look at it, I hope you will send it to another agent or editor that might like it.
(One can either spend two hours a day letting people know their baby has arrived safely, or actually be productive.)
And more laziness and probably poor command of the written word:
Call me write away. (no further comments)
Amandatkd had another one that is inspired.
This letter displays:
This paragraph is a work of art:
(WiM explains not only what the human condition really is but why. Set in the future five thousand years from now, it’s a mixture of Tolkien, David Webber and Dan Brown. Cool, huh? What more could you want but elves, exploding spaceships and religious conspiracy theories and truths?) It displays gross arrogance, delusions of competence and a wonderful ability to attempt to combine widely divergent styles that would probably make someone who actually tried to read something like this throw up.
(I’m offering you first crack at this masterpiece before I ship it off to other agents. Three days should be more than long enough for you to realize what a find this is. You can read a sample and see the artwork my little brother Shemp has down to accompany it at the following website: www.imafool.con or the companion site, www.youareafoolforlooking.com) Takes the assumption that bribes will work. And adds in more work for the agent!
Archangelbeth too does fun things:
( Dear Ms. Hawke,
I am twenty-seven years old and I have always wanted to write a book. Now that I have disvoverd your wonderful blog, I have been inspired. I have the outlines for a five book trilogy, spanning twohundred years of a star-spanning empire’s death throws, from the last True Queen to her illegitimate grandson who will lead his people from the ashes of their former empire to a new world and civilization, with the help of energy beings who make stargates.)
Misidentifies the gender of the agent. Continues by showing only a loose ability to count or spell, and is states enough about the ambition of the book to make most agents turn it down here.
Tcastelb fortunately writes better cover letters in real life:
The greeting is classicly bad:
( Dear Mr. Jennifer Jakson,
i have this awesome idea for a kid’s book. i sent you the whole thing even if it isn’t done yet. Kids–and kids at heart–are going to love it. My dog Squeaky inspired this story. He (not Squeaky, the dog in the story) gets adopted by a kid named Jimmy that doesn’t want a dog and Jimmy keeps getting in trouble and the dog, which is a very pretty collie (Squeaky’s not, Squeaky is a chiwawa) saves the kid from all kinds of trouble. Jimmy falls into a well (this takes place out in the country because i think kids should understand nature more) and the dog, whose name is Laddie, goes for help. It’s all real exciting and Laddie almost dies. Jimmy loves him a lot after that and everyone is happy.)
It confuses gender and agent showing a wonderful attention to detail. Then we see blatant ripoffs of Lassie with a thin coat of (clear) nail polish on the serial numbers. And one can not overlook the ability of the paragraph to stay on topic. Since all if you have I’m sure read my submission guidelines you’ll know that this person is not only sending something I don’t represent, but sending me something that isn’t complete.
This bit shows a clear distance between the writer and reality as well:
( And i’m warning you now, if you tell me no i’m going to send Squeaky to you via FedEx and he’s going to rip your office to shreds to teach you a lesson. And that’s after i put a curse on you. i watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks a lot and i learned all kinds of spells from it so you better watch out or i’ll turn you into a rabbit.)
( I’ve written a really great book that I really hope you’ll take a look at. I know you said that you want it as an attachment, but I couldn’t get that to work in my e-mail, and I figured it would be just as easy to scroll down (even if the formatting is kind of weird, I couldn’t get it to work. It’s right in the document though!). Anyway, what’s one little scroll down – so easy, you might as well read it and skip the letter! ;P )
This one says the writer is ignoring the rules out of laziness, and resorts to emoticons over ya know using words. Always a plus for a writers.
Wrote something that could be some of the stuff I get in my contact form a couple times a month. Paranoia, shaky grasp of reality and of course the not so subtleties of publishing. ( I’ve written the first book of a multi-volume epic fantasy and would eagerly like to submit it to you. I’ve read your livejournal and feel you would be perfect to represent my work. The nearly completed first novel comes in at slightly over 500,000 words. I’d like to tell you what my novel is about but first I have attached a legal document for you to sign and return to me guaranteeing my idea will not be stolen while in your agency’s possession. )
More to come tomorrow, and of course the winner. Eventually.