You might think that the waiting to hear back is the hard part. But actually that was writing the cover letter to my query packet. Iíve sent out a few queries already and have learned to be patient (My mother, Iím sure, will be thrilled to hear this).
Crafting a cover letter is a challenge. You have one single spaced page to introduce yourself, summarize the novel you just spent three years writing, give any credentials you might have, identify the bookís word count, genre and if you have an space left over, mention your lifeís goals. And do it all in a style that is reflective of your authoritative voice while at the same time, remaining professional. No sweat.
Hereís the body of my letter:
Dear Agent X:
I am currently seeking an agent for my 58,500 word novel, The Tragic Circus , which tells the story of a young poet named Simon Said and his search for meaning in a world that is slowly unraveling into chaos and absurdity.
One night Simonís long lost Uncle Soren returns after twenty years traveling the world in search of the Meaning of Life, only to commit suicide shortly thereafter. His uncleís sudden and seemingly pointless demise causes Simon to reevaluate his own life and when he finds it sorely lacking in meaning he sets out to continue his uncleís search.
Along the way Simon falls in love with a clairvoyant mortician named Inez Vespertine, terrorizes a priest, gets his sister Lilly pregnant (she later gives birth to a boy named Amadeus who has the head of a wolf) and attracts the attention of Henry James Parsifal, a paranoid detective convinced that Simon is the cornerstone of a Secret Satanic Conspiracy to subvert Christianity, Democracy and Consensual Reality.
Simon, Inez and Detective Parsifal are like everyone these days, chasing their own demons, looking for an excuse to laugh, fall in love and go on with life. Ultimately they discover that living in a world where everyone you know will one day die, the only way to find meaning is to simply enjoy every beautiful and tragic moment as if it were the last.
This is my first novel but I am hard at work on my second. I feel that my stories will appeal to fans of Ray Bradbury ís work, the books of Neil Gaiman and Edward Gorey , people who understood the movie Magnolia or anyone who thinks Batman is over-compensating for something and have no problem sharing that information with whomever happens to be sitting next to them in the coffee shop.
I have included a synopsis as well as three sample chapters. Should The Tragic Circus interest you, the completed manuscript is available upon request.
The plot synopsis actually was the easiest to write, thanks in no small part to Professor Mark Kniece, who taught me well the art of plotting and writing a good synopsis.
My credentials were easy; I have none. So, as you may have noticed, I just left them out.
Incidentally, the word count is so they will have a rough idea of how long the book is. Most people donít have a clue as to how long a novel is in words but you can safely estimate between 300 and 400 words per page, depending on how the type is set.
The hard part was the genre. The Tragic Circus , in my mind, is a Post Modern Fable (for a definition, see ëWild Hares and Whimsyí, posted below). But as there is no shelf space in any bookstore labeled Fable, Post Modern Fiction or even Slipstream, which is a common term for those books that slip between the Fantasy and Mainstream fiction categories, I was stymied. But I think I found a clever way around this, while at the same time adding a bit of flavor that is evocative of my relaxed, witty voice: I simply added the bit about what sorts of authors I might be comparable to. This gives the agent (or the intern who has the task of sorting through the queries first) an idea of my audience. At the very least it adds some of the narrative voice that I used in the novel, a mixture of verbose, unabashedly poetic flavor with anecdotal asides.
Also, alluding to the fact hat Iím already at work on The 8th Veil , sends the message that Iím in this for the long haul, I have every intention of becoming a published author and that Iím not just some one trick pony so Iíll keep you in business if you keep me in print. At least, this is my intent. Weíll see if agent X feels the same way.