The stock market is tanking, the weather in San Francisco is apocalyptic, and I face the prospect of seeing more of Javier Bardem now that he was nominated for an Oscar for the performance in No Country for Old Men that is still giving me nightmares. Plus, holy crap, **** killed **** on the Wire. I’m jumpy, people. Approach me carefully, do not speak too loudly, and please, please do not freak me out in your query letter.
Now, by urging you not freak me out in a query, I’m not saying don’t send me a horror or suspense novel. It’s fine to scare me through storytelling. What I am saying is that now is not a good time for confessing that you have homicidal tendencies toward literary agents and/or scaring me through inadvertent, sometimes well-intentioned means.
Sure-fire ways to freak me out include:
– Sending your query in a bizarre package
– Sending me a “true-crime” query for a crime YOU committed (yes, this happens)
– E-mailing me a query from a strange e-mail address (such as firstname.lastname@example.org)
– Sending me an anonymous query and/or one signed with a bizarre pen name. Look — having one name a la Prince or Madonna DOES NOT MAKE YOU LOOK AUTHORIAL. It makes you look crazy.
– Writing in the passive voice. The horror!!!
– Excessive praise
– Stream-of-consciousness queries that appear to have been written on an excessive caffeine dosage
– Memoirs about alien and/or supernatural encounters. Call me crazy, but I am not going to believe that you have already been to heaven, hell, or the moons of Saturn and survived to tell the tale.
– Tricks of all kinds, including people who pretend like I’ve previously requested their manuscript only I forgot (I don’t forget) and people who pretend that we are old classmates (I graduated from high school with 70 people, about 50 of whom I started kindergarten with 12 years earlier. We knew each other. A little too well.).
So please, be as cool as possible in your queries. Don’t make any sudden moves. And hopefully we won’t find ourselves in a Cormac McCarthy novel. Hopefully.