January 16th, 2009


Notes from the Front Lines: Cutesy Cover Letters

It never ceases to amaze me how people think it's a good idea to write cutesy cover letters and queries. Here's the opening line from one I received recently:

I've never written one of these before.

Really? I couldn't tell from the fact that this is how you opened your letter to me. Next time, please consider a standard salutation line instead, such as "Dear So-and-so." Just like when you write a letter to grandma.

Or how about this one:

Ugh, writing query letters must be the bane of every writer's existence!

Not really, no. Most adults know how to write a business letter, even if only by receiving one even two weeks from their bank alerting them to a negative balance -- and that's all queries and cover letters are, really. Business letters. Imagine you're in the color copier business and you find a lead on a new start-up company that may be looking for supplies. Are you really going to start your introductory letter to them with, "Ugh, writing these business letters is SO HARD! How about you just buy stuff from me, okay?"

And then there's this one:

I know what you're thinking...Pass!

Well, I am now!

See, you might think cutesy letters will form an instant rapport with the person reading your query or submission, that it will charm us and make you stand out in the crowd, but no. It just makes us cringe, usually, since most of these kinds of letters are not nearly as funny as the author thinks they are.

Remember, kids, your queries and cover letters are business letters, not posts to your favorite message board or texts to your peeps in Williamsburg. If you treat your project with respect, rest assured we will too. If you treat it like a joke, well, you can guess what happens then.

Also, the next person to send me a query addressed "Dear Agent" will receive a form rejection addressed to "Dear Writer." Seriously. What's the matter, you can't do two seconds' worth of research on the company website, which has names all over it?

There's a BODY in the WATER!

Can someone please explain to me why I'm still watching Law & Order: SVU? It's got to be one of the worst written shows on television. Here's the opening scene from this past Tuesday's episode:

Camera swoops down to show a group of people performing early morning tai chi on a bridge above the Hudson River.

Tai Chi Teacher: Can anyone tell me what the next move is called?

Old Lady with Smoker's Voice: Body in Water?

Tai Chi Teacher: No, it's called Snake [something or other].

Old Lady with Smoker's Voice: (overacting hilariously) No, I mean there's a BODY in the WATER!

Cut to dead body being pulled out of the river by police.

Seriously. I'm not even making that up. Who's writing this stuff, and why are they getting ten to twenty times my salary?

The acting isn't much better. I find neither Chris Maloney nor Mariska Hargitay to be compelling thespians, though admittedly it's hard to know how much of the fault is on them and how much is on the crappy material they have to work with. Richard Belzer is rarely on the show anymore, and when he is he looks dazed and out of it in the tinted sunglasses he wears even when he's inside. I keep hoping they'll give Ice-T more to do, but usually he just snarls some pathetic line and walks away from the camera. Who can blame him, really?

Yet I've been watching this show for ten years now, and I still can't find the inner strength to delete it from my DVR record list. The shame, it burns!

Curse you, Dick Wolf! I'm powerless over your show's terrible dialogue and hamhanded acting!