Aug 7, 2011

Query- The Exes in my iPod©

Dear Ms. Slushpile:

The iPod© is one heck of a relationship therapist.

When I got my iPod© Shuffle at age 34, I had no idea that little, shiny square possessed the power to heal. But I quickly discovered my complicated love life could be redeemed with a single playlist.

What’s a girl to do when music is the teleporter to her past lives of failed relationships? Play on. I’d met Mr. Right, or so I’d thought, almost as many times as Madonna sings the word “material” in “Material Girl” (45, if you’re wondering). And hearing each song in my playlist steamrolls me right back to “him.”

The Exes in my iPod© is best described as Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger meets Love is a Mixed Tape by Rob Sheffield. A memoir, Exes is organized as a playlist of 13 songs/chapters, each capturing the essence of my relationship with one ex-boyfriend. After whittling down the deep roster of exes without songs, the remaining 13 men were a fitting reminder that being unlucky in love doesn’t have to mean being unlucky in life. Did I find the bright side in that four-week stint with the svelte model who turned out to be a bisexual coke addict? Check. Did reliving my bicoastal romance with the Black Ops Navy Seal who forgot to mention he was married teach me an even greater lesson? Absolutely. Readers follow my personal journey through life, men and music, as I relive a slew of embarrassing dating disasters, which catapulted me from a college campus in Kansas to a dive boat in Key Largo to a bustling restaurant in Miami—where the real “dish” begins. Along this long, bumpy road to happiness, I forged a career in wine and haute cuisine, ensuring each tale of love, lies and loss is always served with a side order of humble pie (and a glass of Champagne). At the heart of this journey is my struggle to learn the difference between sex and love—and the power of self-respect. Recollection of my past through music has been a powerful tool for understanding the strong woman I’ve become. And it’s been a hell of a lot cheaper than therapy.

Now I’m ready to share my dirty dishes with other women who will recognize themselves—and their relationships— in these stories and songs. My book, The Exes in my iPod©, is approximately 79,000 words. I’ve spent four years polishing this manuscript, and it has been reviewed twice by a professional editor. I'm committed to perfecting it.

A complete book proposal and sample chapters are available upon request. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Lisa M. Mattson


Anonymous said...

yankinfrance here...

First off, this query is much too long -- shoot for 250 words maximum. You want it to fit on a single page.

And break up the long paragraph -- a little white space goes a long way to making things readable.

The premise is interesting but I find it hard to believe anyone will touch this. The trademark and copyright issues alone will make this project way too expensive to publish.

And it's iPod (TM) -- not the copyright symbol.

As for the query itself: You start off with too many hooks: Choose just one. I'd say the first ("one heck of a therapist") is the catchiest.

Then get right to the point. Is this a memoir or a self-help book? (I initially thought it was fiction -- I didn't realize it was meant to be something else until the end of the query. I didn't notice Rick's memoir tag, but you won't have that in the final query anyway.)

I'd be careful of the mixed metaphors -- a playlist is not the same thing as a dish, dirty or otherwise. Although one wonders why you didn't work this up in the form of a menu, if this is set against a "career in wine and haute cuisine."

Especially since someone has already used this idea -- a mix tape is pretty much the same, after all. (Which borders on copyright infringement, see?)

I'd also ditch the "I've spent four years..." etc. bit. It doesn't matter how long you've spent on a manuscript -- Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in 18 days. The fact that a "professional" editor has gone through it means nothing and is not a selling point (especially since he/she apparently doesn't recognize the difference between copyright and trademark). Being committed to perfecting the book is nice and all, but unnecessary. That's the (publisher's) editor's job.

You're better off giving some sort of bio here instead.

I'd rewrite the book as a menu -- you'd be able to use the inherent progression of a meal to show your own growth, and you'd avoid sending all of your royalities to an evil corporation. Instead, you can send them to me, as I've just copyrighted the menu idea ;-)

I'd also think about rewriting this as a novel -- from what I've read, memoir is a waning category.

Anonymous Author said...

I found this query very hard to follow. First I thought "self help book". Then I got to the teleporter of past lives thing, and thought "novel with query written in first person".

Yes, you've got the word "memoir" in the 4th paragraph, but faced with that large block of text, people are likely to skim. The words that are capitalized will jump out, and they also suggest "novel".

One airs dirty linen, one doesn't share dirty dishes... I get the play on "dish", but the image of sharing dirty dishes is kinda unpleasant.

I don't know if memoir is dead or not, but it's certainly dangerous territory. What seems to happen nowadays is that someone publishes a memoir and within a few days the internets are a-Twitter with eyewitnesses and characters contradicting the memoirist's version of events.

Which leads to a lot more dirty linen-airing.

"Cheers" is too informal for a business letter. And a query is a business letter.

Aside from that, I agree with everything YIF said, except the bit about a bio. IMHO a bio should be included only for those few agents who actually ask for one.

Lisa Mattson said...

Thanks so much for the feedback. I'll plug away at some changes this weekend. As far as the trademark is concerned, I didn't think there was an issue due to Apple's published guidelines for publications (#3):

Although the book is a memoir, I really don't care if it needs to be a novel instead. Would it be wrong to say it's a memoir, but I'm open to changing it to a novel?

Anonymous Author said...

Lisa, I don't know about "wrong", but it'd be a bad idea to say that. Anything that suggests you haven't already busted your tuckus to bring your manuscript to its highest possible form will cause an agent to hit the "reject" button.

Change it to a novel; see if that works. Polish it to the best of your ability. Then decide which manuscript works better, and submit that one.

A lot of work? Yes. A lot of work for possibly no reward except experience? Yes.

gj said...

This is a red flag: "And it’s been a hell of a lot cheaper than therapy."

A lot of books are written as therapy, and I bet agents see a lot of those manuscripts. Therapy isn't interesting to anyone other than the patient.

You need to sell this on why OTHER people would want to read about your experiences. You're pitching it as "I had a great time," when a persuasive pitch is "YOU will have a great time." (And you need to SHOW that readers will have a great time, rather than TELLing that readers will self-identify with characters/events.)

Think about why anyone would want to read this. Perhaps first think about why you wanted to read the last ten memoirs you read. (If you haven't read ten memoirs recently, then stop and go read ten bestselling memoirs. You need to know your own genre.) And then figure out what it is that your memoir offers that's at least as interesting/compelling as those ten published memoirs.

The iPod/mix-tape premise is fun, as an idea/observation, but it feels more like a headline or punchline, rather than the substance of a story. What's the story (meaning: a character/narrator in a struggle, which escalates until the character either wins or loses)?

Anonymous said...

Without having read your manuscript this may be an unfair assessment, but I have read Sheffield’s book, Love is a Mix Tape, and I have to point out that much of the content you described in your query sounds to be extremely similar to the subject matter of his book. And, if the content is not quite the same, the general theme certainly appears to be “borrowed”. So much so, that I might take heed from what YIF already mentioned in his/her earlier comments about running into some issues with copyright infringement if your book was in fact, somehow published. If I were Sheffield it would certainly raise a red flag to me.