Check out any site by or about literary agents and one thing you’ll be told is to include a bit about yourself in the query letter. This is the paragraph where you astound the agent by telling them about the competitions you’ve won, the articles printed in the New York Times; and how you met your MP husband/wife.
Some of us haven’t achieved any of that, and some of us (about 0.3% of the population) have never done anything. That part of the paper where the biography is supposed to sit is so blank you can see the watermark.
Lying is not an option. exaggerating is possible, but all that happens is you get found out more slowly than if you were lying. So, I’m throwing myself upon you, my wonderful loyal and sometimes weird WordPress followers. How do I make my humdrum useless life marketable to a literary agent.
Let’s have a look at some of the raw materials.
1 Fact – I won a short story competition.
Reality – I was 11 years old. It was last century and is about as relevent as winning a box of chocolates in a raffle several years earlier.
2 Fact – At University I was the editor of an international student magazine. (Note the word international.)
Reality – You’ll have to offer me a publishing contract to find out the prosaic truth about my being an editor of an international student magazine.
3 Fact – I used to write for an online spoof newspaper.
Reality – The Onion? No, The Rockall Times which is no longer with us and few remember. And none of my articles won a Pulitzer Prize.
4 Fact – I’ve written loads of documents in my time as a landscape architect.
Reality – Telling someone you’re a landscape architect is like force feeding them mogadon.
5 Fact – I’ve no more facts.
I’m not married, related to anyone famous, don’t live anywhere interesting like Notting Hill (replace interesting with ‘well known’), don’t belong to any writing circles; but I have had photos published in a photography magazine, had an illustration printed in a music magazine, had texts read out by Bobby Friction and Nihal on Radio 1 and…
…was recently contacted by Aaron Wylie from Au4 complementing my article on the band and informing me I got the name of their album wrong.
No track record, no ongoing success, and I don’t even have a functioning Twitter account. My only hope is that a potential agent and publisher can market me on my obscure mysterious existence. Keep things quiet so that people don’t find out there’s nothing to me. After all, Harper Lee has done f*** all in fifty-five years and look how well her last book sold.
I write in cafes, but I’m not a single mother with a baby in a pram. I’ve never worked as a bus driver or flown a Spitfire. I’m not famous for having botoxed lips or wandering thumbs. And I’ve even started leaving the name of my hometown off query letters because of the appalling reputation it has.
In fact, the very vacuous nature of my existence could be the strongest selling point. No baggage, no previous, no clichés, a vast black hole of mundanity so all encompassing people ask if it’s even possible to live like this in the 21st century. ‘He must have done something? In the internet age everyone has at least fifteen minutes of fame.’
But alas, it isn’t to be. I’m condemned to wander the world in obscurity, just one of eight billion people who don’t go viral or become a meme. Maybe I should start a new movement: the Inconsequentialists. Iconic head of my own cultural phenomenon. Perhaps then I might become somebody; become . . . marketable.