Sunday, November 28, 2010

#189-revised

Dear QueryShark:

Finally, the answer to the burning question of the ages: just how did the seven Gilligan’s Island castaways end up on the Minnow together anyway? Why would a millionaire couple be taking a three-hour tour on such a boat in the first place, let alone with a farm girl, a professor, and a movie star?

The commercial fiction IF NOT FOR THE COURAGE answers these questions and more.

IF NOT FOR THE COURAGE adheres strictly to the legal definition of parody, and thus uses derivative characters under the fair use doctrine. Nevertheless, parodying our beloved seven stranded castaways might very possibly cause a stir. Are you afraid of a bit of controversy? If not, then read on…


And here's where I stop reading.  It's clear you don't understand how this works.  This isn't controversial. There's NOTHING controversial here.  What you've got here is a novel based on characters created by someone else, using their names, and their situation.  If you think it's parody and protected by fair use go ahead and publish it yourself.  

What you're asking in a query letter is if I will represent it for sale to a publisher.  And the people who decide whether it's parody and fair use is NOT the author.  It's the legal department at BigBucksPublishing.  And those guys are paid a lot of money to keep their employer out of court.

This won't pass muster with them.  I absolutely guarantee this.  The reason is that even IF this is fair use, the creators of the television show can sue you for infringement. It doesn't matter if you are right: court costs will kill you.

Your opinion doesn't matter here.

The body of Ginger Grant’s Hollywood agent, Charles Schwartz, washes up on Sand Island in Honolulu. Detectives Steve McDonald and Danny Wilson are on the case. Their investigation quickly focuses on the seven future castaways, who all have a motive to knock off Schwartz.

Movie star Ginger Grant, B-movie actress who tried sleeping her way to the top, and who is having an affair with Thurston Howell III. Did she kill her agent because he couldn’t get her A-movie roles?

Jonas Grumby, aka Skipper, and brain damaged simpleton Gilligan, gay lovers who were the last to see Schwartz alive. Schwartz was responsible for Gilligan’s head injury. Perhaps they wanted revenge?

Mrs. Howell, socialite and Nazi collaborator with her Uncle Franz Müller, pursuing the secret island Santou reputed to have guano with miraculous healing powers. Perhaps they wanted Schwartz dead for being a member of the Jewish family who runs the department store that’s the chief rival to Howell’s?

Or maybe Mr. Howell killed Schwartz to end the blackmail resulting from pictures taken of him and Grumby in a compromising encounter years before, during Howell’s “wild oats” phase?

Or perhaps Schwartz was murdered for keeping Santou a secret during World War II. So secret the Japanese and the Germans both coveted it. And it’s still secret in 1964, when our story takes place… Even though the Howells own it… And exiled Nazis from South America still want it…

McDonald and Wilson eventually finger Professor Roy Hinkley. Hinkley’s anger gets the better of his superior intellect, as he holds a grudge against Schwartz for years for depriving him of sufficient quantities of the magical guano for his scientific tests.

And then there’s the Howells’ son Thirsty, who wants his father out of the way so that he can take over the Howell oil business. He hopes Ginger can talk some sense into his father, but then Uncle Franz comes up with a better plan: maroon the elder Howell on Santou Island.

Thirsty recruits his college girlfriend Mary Ann Summers, a huge Ginger Grant fan, to talk Ginger and his father into a secret trip to an exclusive resort. Captained by Skipper Grumby and his first mate Gilligan, of course. But the conspirators’ carefully laid plans go awry when Mrs. Howell gets wind of her husband’s infidelities and joins the voyage… then Hinkley is convinced he’ll finally be able to collect his coveted guano, so he comes along… and Mary Ann doesn’t want to be left out, so she jumps on board as well…

This parallel novel is complete at 56,000 words. For more information on the novel, please see its Web page at (redacted)

I have written hundreds of nonfiction articles, white papers, and other pieces over the last twenty years, and I coauthored the books (redacted) IF NOT FOR THE COURAGE is my first novel.

I am sending you this query because buzz sells books, and Query Shark is the first step to building buzz.

This is utter horseshit.  Who do you think reads this blog? Writers looking for query help. This is the last place you'll find buzz being built.

I’m attaching the prologue and first chapter. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Don't ever attach anything unless the agent website specifically says "attach". Paste all the requested items into the body of the email.  This is a no-exceptions rule.
Form rejection.

---------------------
Dear QueryShark:

Finally, the answer to the burning question of the ages: just how did the seven Gilligan’s Island castaways end up on the Minnow together anyway? Why would a millionaire couple be taking a three-hour tour on such a boat in the first place, let alone with a farm girl, a professor, and a movie star?


And here's where I stop reading. The characters from Gilligan Island, indeed the characters in every television show are covered by copyright. You can't just use them in a book cause you want to. You need permission from the copyright owner. In the case of Gilligan's Island it's Turner Broadcasting.


Those departments have forms to fill out and among the questions they ask is Who is going to publish the book; How many copies will be printed; Where will the books be sold and so forth.

Without a publishing contract you don't know the answer to any of those questions.

However, a publisher or agent knows full well you need those permissions. To take this book on means you'd risk all the work being for nothing if permissions are denied OR they are too expensive (yes, copyright holders charge you money to use their stuff--and YOU pay it, NOT the publisher.)

So, if you have already secured permission to use the characters in your book, and you might have, that's the information you start with. If you haven't you're going to be hard pressed to find anyone who's going to keep reading.



The commercial fiction IF NOT FOR THE COURAGE answers these questions and more.

The body of Ginger Grant’s Hollywood agent, Charles Schwartz, washes up on Sand Island in Honolulu. Steve McGarrett and Dan “Danno” Williams are on the case. Their investigation quickly focuses on the seven future castaways.

Egad. Hawaii Five-O is a CURRENT television show. It's one thing to get clearance for an old show. There's no way a television company is going to let you use characters from a current show. They've simply got too much money at stake. They get no benefit from letting you do it, and run the risk of you damaging their (intellectual) property.

Movie star Ginger Grant, B-movie actress who tried sleeping her way to the top, and who is having an affair with Thurston Howell III. Did she kill her agent because he couldn’t get her A-movie roles?

Jonas Grumby, aka Skipper, and brain damaged simpleton Gilligan, gay lovers who were the last to see Schwartz alive. Schwartz was responsible for Gilligan’s head injury. Perhaps they wanted revenge?


Mrs. Howell, socialite and Nazi collaborator with her Uncle Franz, pursuing the secret island Santou reputed to have guano with miraculous healing powers. Perhaps they wanted Schwartz dead for being a member of the Jewish family who runs the department store that’s the chief rival to Howell’s?

Or maybe Mr. Howell killed Schwartz to end the blackmail resulting from pictures taken of him and Grumby in a compromising encounter years before?

I thought Mr. Howell was having an affair with Ginger?

Perhaps it was Professor Roy Hinkley, who blames Schwartz for depriving him of sufficient quantities of the magical guano for his scientific tests?

What about the Howells’ son Thirsty, who wants his father out of the way so that he can take over the Howell oil business?

Or perhaps Schwartz was murdered for keeping Santou a secret during World War II. So secret the Japanese and the Germans both coveted it. And it’s still secret in 1964, when our story takes place… Even though the Howells now own it… And exiled Nazis from South America still want it….

This parallel novel is complete at 56,000 words. While the characters are derivative, the story is entirely original. For more information on the novel, please see its Web page (redacted)


I have written hundreds of nonfiction articles, white papers, and other pieces over the last twenty years, and I coauthored the books (redacted)(Hayden Books, 1996), (redacted) (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and (redacted) (John Wiley & Sons, 2006). IF NOT FOR THE COURAGE is my first novel.


I am sending this query to you because IF NOT FOR THE COURAGE lacks a single protagonist, and thus isn't amenable to the standard query letter template. So, if I can get your attention with this query I know I'm on the right track.

The form isn't the problem here. It's the entire novel. 

And you haven't answered the question you started with: how did the characters get on the boat. This is all set up and possible motivation for killing the agent (as if anyone needs motivation to kill an agent.) 

Even forgetting the clearance problem, you still need an emotionally satisfying ending to the story and it's not "they get stranded on a desert island for seven years." In other words, you have to solve the crime. 

That means that whoever gets killed is the natural focus of the query: lots of people have motive to kill Charles Schwartz is probably a better way to start the query, and then focus on the relationship each of the castaways has with the agent, and their motive to kill him.  

And who solves the crime? If the castaways solve it in unison, you can simply refer to them in the collective sense.  Otherwise, the character who solves the crime is the prime candidate for protagonist.

I’m attaching the prologue and first chapter. I’m looking forward to your response! Thank you for your time and consideration

I'm pretty sure you're not looking forward to this response, but your optimism is rather sweet.


Sincerely,

100 comments:

Julie Weathers said...

So, guano may be the inciting event? Is it wrong to say this query is bat sh!t crazy? Yes, I went there.

I pretty much despise works based off another's work even if the copyright has expired.

There are so many fresh ideas out there. If I were the owner of Gilligan's Island rights, this would irritate me to have the work so corrupted.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm going to show immense ignorance here. Is it possible to change all the names and some of the details of this and then market it as an original work, or will its origins be apparent?

Julie Weathers said...

Wait!

Charles Schwartz is Ginger's agent.

He's also the owner of a giant department store that rivals Howell's.

Not only that but Schwartz controls magical bat crap.

He's gay and brain damaged Gilligan.

Mrs. Howell's family hates him because he's Jewish.

Nazi Boys From Brazil want the magic bat crap and hate Schwartz for keeping it from them.

Schwartz is blackmailing Howell because he had an affair with Skipper?

The professor hates Schwartz for keeping him from the magical bat crap even though Howell owns it?

So, if the Howell's own the magical bat crap now that the Nazis from Brazil want, wouldn't they kill the Howells?

You know, I'm feeling very special about my tangled web of a wip right now. Very special indeed.

I'm sorry author, I don't like scathing comments here, but this time you caught me before coffee and seriously...just say no.

Inkling Child said...

Why is there no mention of Mary Ann in the whole query?

kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alaskaravenclaw said...

The writer writes fairly well. S/he's put some work into it. I guess what puzzles me is how someone can have gotten this far in writing without recognizing the very simple fact that you have to create your own characters. (Or use real, long-dead historical ones, preferably those without a lot of proud descendants.)

Anyway, this makes me kind of sad for the writer. But hopefully it was a learning experience.

This is fanfic. Google shows that there's a small but doughty contingent of Gilligan's Island fanfic writers-- and, who knows, maybe even readers-- out there on the internet. Perhaps this novel is for them. (Online fanfic itself is legally sticky, but rights holders are less likely to complain about it since it doesn't make money.)

I just want to say this to the writer: You have some talent. Now you need knowledge. Read books about fiction writing. Read a lot of them.

Fairyhedgehog, yes, it's possible. We've all seen books that seem derivative. Hard to see the point, though, in terms of being satisfied with one's writing.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Kim, "using established characters with a new twist" isn't original-- it's the basis of fanfic.

John Jack said...

Parody is a Fair Use of other artists' intellectual property creations. I don't see parody in the query, though I see potential for it.

However, there's a bright line between acceptable and unacceptable parody that can entangle a writer in a legal catastrophe or pass muster.

Ultimately, the writer of a parody is accountable for intellectual property rights infringement litigation arising from questionable Fair Use practices. What's not open to question is a moving target and is often settled through risky and expensive civil litigation.

Kate Halleron said...

While I can see this as a popular and fun piece of fanfic, no way is this a commercial novel.

Post it on fanfic.net and let it go.

Miss Sharp said...

Fun premise! Too bad legal entanglements might prevent it seeing the light of day.

The writer might go with fairyhedgehog's suggestion of a good disguise, but that would certainly take the wind out of the proverbial sails, wouldn't it? We are having fun (well some of us anyway) picking Gilligan's Island apart because Gilligan is already famous. If it was some unknown castaways we wouldn't enjoy it.

I don't know how far back in history you have to go to break free of the copyright issues but maybe that would be an option?

Gay brain damaged pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, anyone? lol

Christinaswritinglog said...

I am actually a bit baffled by the exact legalities of the reuse of ideas and characters, but if the names were changed slightly would this not be allowed through as satire?

If it isn't satire I don't see the point in making this about Gilligan's Island at all.

I don't think you need the same type of permission for doing satire, but I might be completely wrong.

Megan said...

Author, you have a great imagination, and you write well. This story is completely off limits, for all the reasons QS mentions, but it had me laughing the whole way through. Not only because the whole thing is completely nuts, but because it's hilariously nuts and out of left field. I cringe at the idea of fan fic, but if the novel is as fast paced and funny as the letter, I'd probably at least skim it.

So, yeah, this has to be scrapped. But you obviously have a VERY active imagination, and I hope you continue to write.

I also agree with a previous commenter that you have such an elaborate story and the TV show stuff is so incidental to it that I bet you could tweak things and make the characters your own.

Megan said...

Author, you have a great imagination, and you write well. This story is completely off limits, for all the reasons QS mentions, but it had me laughing the whole way through. Not only because the whole thing is completely nuts, but because it's hilariously nuts and out of left field. I cringe at the idea of fan fic, but if the novel is as fast paced and funny as the letter, I'd probably at least skim it.

So, yeah, this has to be scrapped. But you obviously have a VERY active imagination, and I hope you continue to write.

I also agree with a previous commenter that you have such an elaborate story and the TV show stuff is so incidental to it that I bet you could tweak things and make the characters your own.

alaskaravenclaw said...

John Jack, having now visited the writer's webpage, I see that he does consider this to be a parody.

I'm with you, though-- it doesn't sound like it.

I'm also going to reiterate my suggestion that he read some books about fiction writing.

Lehcarjt said...

Here's the thing for me...

I have fond memories of Gilligan's Island from childhood. I like the way I remember the characters (in an innocent, silly, childish way). I love Gilligan. The skipper is fun. The professor is brilliant, etc.

The way you paint them destroys them - it makes them twisted, evil, stupid. Why would I ever want to read this?

fairyhedgehog said...

Alaskaravenclaw, thanks. I see your point.

arhooley said...

Guess what? A nit!

"Movie star Ginger Grant, B-movie actress who tried sleeping her way to the top, and who is having an affair with Thurston Howell III." I'd say get rid of "Movie star." It's a somewhat redundant appositive and less descriptive than "B-movie actress." Or if you want to keep the word star, try "B-movie star Ginger Grant."

Josin L. McQuein said...

I was hoping (I do that from time to time) that the first paragraph was a set-up for something other than a piece of fanfic. Maybe the book was about the world's biggest Gilligan's Island fan or someone who set out to try and force people to recreate the Minnow wreck as some comically-twisted, pop-culture-themed McGuffin.

You killed my hopes.

Assuming you don't want to scrap this story and post it on Fanfiction . net, why not make it Gilligan-esque, in that there's a shipwreck and a desert island? Rename the characters, change their professions and keep the bits about affairs and Nazi's, etc. that you added yourself.

In other words, don't "make it your own", make it legally original. Castaways are fair game, Gilligan's Island and H5-0 are not.

Gisele said...

How killed Schwartz?

My guess is, Professor Plum with a candlestick in the library...

This query is clear, concise and minds its Ps and Qs. I'll even go ahead and call it well written. It is easy to understand and follow. Clarity earns big points with me!

Although, I'm not the target audience for this novel (don't know the first thing about Gilligan's Island) there might be a fan base out there. Who knows?

It seems that the author has bigger fish to fry (permission from Turner Broadcasting) before focusing on this query.

So, for now, I'll abstain from further query comments.

Good luck to you, Author!

Orlando said...

Sorry but I don't think you'll receive the "go ahead" to put this together from the original creators (Turner Broadcasting).

If the plot is good then it should stand on it's own without using these characters. Change the names and any mention of the show (Gilligan's Island) and let's see if your plot can stand on it's own.

jdh said...

You can use characters that have passed into public domain (Sherlock, Dracula, etc), but Dano, the Professor and Maryann are many decades away from that. You can:

A) Put what sounds like a funny but legally doomed novel into a drawer and will it to your descendants for publication.

B) Forget about it and put that amazingly twisted sense of humor (and yes, I do mean that as a compliment) into creating your own characters.

Shaunna said...

This is Gilligan's Island meets Clue: The Movie. It sounds like it could be equally entertaining, in a whodunnit sort of way, but I don't normally read crime fiction, so I don't know how well it would appeal to readers who do. My suggestion is to forget the Gilligan's Island theme. Rename your characters and distance them in personality and situation from the show. You'll have to round them out a lot more, because you can't rely on characters your readers already know from watching television (and because those characters were fairly two-dimensional anyway). If the novel can stand on its own two legs, you won't have to totally scrap the project (or come up with money to pay for the copyright).

Clare K. R. Miller said...

Exactly what Kate Halleron said.

Also, "Or perhaps Schwartz was murdered for keeping Santou a secret during World War II. So secret the Japanese and the Germans both coveted it."
So very, very secret that two major players in the war that are geographically far distant from the island in question knew about it?

jjdebenedictis said...

If the author could jump through all the necessary hoops to make this legal, I can see it being a novel that would get a lot of attention from the press, and that's a good thing for any new book.

That said, there's a reason people haven't done this before. As The Shark notes, it would be hard to get the permissions--especially given some of the racier elements in the plot.

(I mean, we all know about the Skipper and Gilligan, of course, but regardless....)

Aslimmerkitten said...

Ok, I have been reading the good shark for months, and don't believe I've commented before.

As others have mentioned, this is fanfic. Pur and simple. It may be very good fanfic, very well-written fanfic, but almost no fanfic has been published, outside of 'official' works, (like the star trek and star wars expanded series of works) because of copyright issues.

I don't know if there are official novelisations or expansions of this particular canon, but if there are, you may succeed in pitching this idea to the creators.

Author, you clearly have imagination. You may have talent, I can't tell from your query. I would advise treating this novel as 'practice' for a future novel based on your own, original characters.

Irene Troy said...

The story: a retake of Gilligan’s Island combined with the original Hawaii 5-O. And this is original and creative? All right, if you say so…

The problem remains that you have taken characters from an immensely popular series, actually two series and tried updating them to fit a new novel. Yes, I know, this is done all the time, but it still doesn’t work for me. A short story as a take-off from the original show…perhaps. A full length novel? Nope – doesn’t work for me. Is the premise amusing? Sure, but nothing here would make me rush out to buy the book.

You do show imagination and an interesting writing style. Take these and go create an original story, using original characters, with an original plot. If you use the same humor and creative process that story might just be worth reading.

Terri Coop said...

I just got out of 5 years of bonecrushing bare-knuckled intellectual property litigation for my family's toy company.

I won.

This book wouldn't

The author clearly states the characters are derivative. Stop right there. Derivatives are covered by copyright law.

Now, take all that twisted hilarity and keep twisting it into something that uses the idea (not copyrighted) into a new expression of the idea (not copyrighted).

Seven people can take a 3-hour boat ride that ends up very very wrong: a school teacher, a B-list rockstar, a honky-tonk waitress, a dotcom billionaire and his trophy wife, a klutzy gay first mate, and an overweight captain with a not-so-secret stash of porn in the boathouse.

Let the games begin . . .

PS: this was very funny

Terri

Nianne said...

Well, I never watched Gilligan's Island or Hawaii-50. This query was a frustrating, confusing jumble to me.

If you're looking for ways to polish this up despite the fact that it doesn't fit a standard template, maybe try to make it clear and enticing to someone who doesn't already know any of the characters?

Casey said...

Isn't this sort of what fanfiction.net is for? There's a reason why most TV shows don't have novel versions.

flibgibbet said...

I doubt very much that any agent/editor would agree to greenlight this project---not even if you agreed to pay all legal expenses yourself.

I'm not a copyright lawyer, but it did strike me odd that you cited a Wiki article on your web page as a legal defense. First of all, it's Wiki, and second of all, the Wiki artcle cites examples of paralell novels based on historical novels. Yours is based on TV shows. (Wiki also points out that Star Trek is off limits).

More importantly, how many people are going to line up to read an alternative backstory to Gilligan's Island? And with such a narrow audience, what agent/editor would take the risk?

Your novel may be really funny and worthy of a read, but it sounds like fanfic to me. If it isn't, prove it in the query.

TheLabRat said...

The Shark got bit by a (very clever) troll (who happens to be a good writer). I wish there were some way to post this at the artoftrolling.com. Alas, it would take more explanation than the "query".

Leah said...

Even ignoring the issue of copyright, I don't think this query is effective. It's a dead body and a list of characters with motive. How is that compelling? The author leans on nostalgia for the TV show and tries to sell the idea that these hapless, beloved islanders were actually twisted, morally dubious persons.

The story doesn't sound like it works without the twist on the wholesomeness of the cast, and since it will likely never clear copyright hurdles, it's doomed to remain fanfic.

That said, I like the idea of a black comedy/murder mystery in the campy style of mid-century TV shows. You could rewrite, but it won't be as simple as doing a search-and-replace on names. You'll have to rework the characters and character dynamics, and make them your own.

Nathan said...

"Tact" is a word that could bear repetition, although if ever universally applied I might lose my best reference for examples of character voice. :)

As to the query, these kinds of haphazard fiction pieces have a place, and a definite appeal if handled right, but I imagine it will be very difficult to sell where its audience is already potentially limited by previous experience with this series.

By way of suggestion, I would seriously look at how it might serve the story if you were to modify the characters enough to avoid copyright infingement, even while keeping the quirks that made them endearing.

Joel said...

What separates fanfic is this: copyright. Fanfic exists on the playground of Completely Safe Because It's Illegal And Therefore Unpublishable.

You have a website and redacted credits. It means at some level you understand this, so you built an airplane in your basement. It's kinda cool, but once you are out of earshot, visitors say, "What was he thinking?"

Ignore all fanfic comments. Focus on the rest. Like this: Ditch these characters. Ditch. Them. The heart of the books is characters, and you need good ones.

Re-cast as Hawaii Noir: BLACK SAND, BLACK HEART or CLOUDS OF SAND AND STONE (No Amazon hits; didn’t check Alibris.)

Here’s a legit mashup. Mayberry, NAS. Sheriff Eileen McNamara is responsible for a chain of teeny tropical islands: tourists, sugar barons, national cemetery, and the damn Naval Air Station--when aircraft carriers disrupt the city like a Midwest college town on Game Day. And the islands are volcanic. ... ROOK ISLANDS (‘Rook’ is Dutch for smoke, but it has the Chess/Bird/Con thing, too.) ... Wow. I should write this ... But you get the ebb and flow of a series, and you have a core of characters who watch them come and go. And it can go places no TV show can ever go: expensive places for long shoots.

Another problem? You’re basing this on two mediocre shows of a mediocre era, so you’re really building a birch and canvas monoplane. This is the Golden Age of Television. I honor Serling, Chayevsky and Playhouse 90, but: Dude. If you haven’t seen episodes of Damages, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Blood, Sopranos or Dexter, then you haven’t seen good writing.

Still. I’m one to talk: I’m in my own basement building an airplane.

Let’s get of our basements.

Me said...

Steve and Danno don't need to solve it - all the author needs to do is rope in Quincy and Sam and they'll solve it. They might even chat a few girls up at the same time - well, Quincy might, Sam never had much luck in that department - and then hang out at the bar for a cheesy freeze-frame finish. Maybe the author could even switch the action to Cabot Cove and get Jessica in on it too.

For someone who has supposedly written so many pieces, the author appears to have no grasp of copyright or intellectual property. Half way through I thought it was a joke query, but sadly not.

tuitalk said...

Filing the serial numbers off (http://fanlore.org/wiki/Filing_Off_The_Serial_Numbers) is a time-honoured tradition of fanfiction writers going pro (although the books on that page are mostly small-press & not terribly well-known, there are one or two noted fantasy series out there - just as an example - which started out as fic). This author should at least consider it. And, hey, it makes those dreadful "Hornblower meets Anne McCaffrey" shoutlines awfully easy to come up with ("Gilligan's Island meets Hawaii 5-0 by way of Something Noiry!")

Tiger said...

So why cant this be about original people? there's nothing here that requires characters from other people's work.

Stijn Hommes said...

"The commercial fiction IF NOT FOR THE COURAGE answers these questions and more." Please don't use "commercial fiction" as a descriptive adjective for your title. It's the wrong thing to do with a genre name. If you did it grammatically correctly, you'd have the dreaded phrase "[commercial] fiction novel".

Also, what is a parallel novel? I think you meant to say alternate universe or prequel...

Instead of obtaining the rights to this show, you could write some good novels and get invited to write for existing series. Novelizations of TV shows are usually written by people who are invited to do so by rights holders

arhooley said...

Never mind who killed Charles Schwartz. I'm curious about the mystery building on this page. Was that the author at Comment deleted November 28, 2010 9:58 AM? And LabRat, do explain.

Joel said...

Does it matter if this is a troll?

Each post is one room school house, and hopefully we take the lessons we need:

1. Basic Formatting: Get My Name Right. White Space. Clean Closing.
2. Basic Structure: Query is Not A Synopsis, Use Your Words. Conflict, Baby, Conflict.
3. The Meta Lesson: Creepy. Wandering. Not Understanding the Market. Read A Book. And copyright.

Today's lesson was copyright. It was a pitch made true: "It's Gilligan's Island Meets Hawaii Five-O ... literally!"

Well. At least we all have a good example of what literally--if not literary--means.

M. G. E. said...

Stuff that stuck out to me, besides the obvious copyright issue:

This parallel novel is complete at 56,000 words. ... I am sending this query to you because IF NOT FOR THE COURAGE lacks a single protagonist, and thus isn't amenable to the standard query letter template. So, if I can get your attention with this query I know I'm on the right track.

- It lacks a single protagonist? I think you mean it features multiple protagonists. Big difference there. There've been plenty of queries featuring multiple protags. But, it's good to know that even in that case, there's still one main protagonist, and in the TV show it was Gilligan.

Lehcarjt said:"The way you paint them destroys them - it makes them twisted, evil, stupid. Why would I ever want to read this? "
- I agree. This was actually painful to read. It's the worst sort of thing to do to old family friendly shows, to debase them by essentially attacking their motives and motivations, using the worst possible stereotypes as a paintbrush on character--or perhaps I should say "graffiti". Isn't painting Howell as an anti-Semite over the line? Gilligan's suddenly retarded? That ends any chance of the copyright holder greenlighting this project too.

Turner Broadcasting still makes money off Gilligan you know? It's been re-run in like, what, 25 countries? I guarantee it's still playing somewhere.

And then, magical bat guano? You lost me there :P

It's probably not worth reworking this into a stand-alone tale, because so much of something like this requires reader familiarity with the original to play off of as a source of ironic-humor. That's the effect of casting all these character as secretly so different from what we knew them as.

Author: It's a trunk novel.

I feel for you. It's painful to finish a work and realize there's a major problem you didn't count on. That's a high price to learn this lesson.

But there is a bright side: Congrats on writing your first novel, sort of :) Now set it aside and come up with an original plot and characters :) And make it much longer, 75k minimum.

Joseph said...

This is fanfiction. Magical guano? Do they have to eat it? It sounds awfully short for such an elaborate plot. Then again, fanfiction tends to be short.

Theresa Milstein said...

I think the Gilligan's Island characters are so well known, that making Mrs. Howell at nazi collaborator and Ginger having an affair with Mr. Howell doesn't really fit with the silliness of the original show.

Like Fairyhedgehog, I think changing the names and some minor details could make this work. Then try rewriting the query based on Query Shark's suggestions.

It reads to me like the game Clue.

Stephanie Barr said...

My reaction was much like Lehcarjt's, except I didn't like the show.

Farcical murder mysteries with extremes can work, even if they include such things as Nazi war criminals and miracle bat poop, but I found it diametrically opposed to the lighthearted good-hearted silliness of the original.

I'm not fond of the show, but I can't imagine anyone connected green-lighting this interpretation of the characters.

And, truthfully, the sendup struck me as a little sad.

alaskaravenclaw said...

One more bit of advice for the author, when he writes his next novel:

Do not use synonyms for "said".

Except in genuine emergencies.

bzyglowi said...

As a general guideline, copyright owned by an individual lasts from the time of the creator's death + 70 years in the US. I'm not sure how those rules apply when the rights are owned by a corporation, but either way Gilligan's Island is over 100 years away from being in the public domain. As everyone else has said, right now this is a crossover AU fanfic, and that's okay... but not for publishing.

As for the query itself, I'm sort of familiar with the Gilligan's Island characters, but not with Hawaii 5-0. Even knowing some of the characters, I was very confused by all the descriptions of their many connections and intrigues. I think you want to focus on one or two key players--your primary protagonist(s) and antagonist(s)--and worry about the rest in the actual novel.

The premise itself-- a wacky murder mystery/shipwreck--could work, if you just use original characters. You could even keep a reference to Gilligan without treading on the copyright. For example:

"In the mid-1960's seven very different passengers took a fateful trip out on a tour boat one day. This story is not about those passengers. But it is about another crew who found themselves in an eerily similar situation..."

With a passage like that you're telling readers, "Hey, this is going to be a little like Gilligan's Island" while still using your own characters and plot. Allusions or references are okay. Copyright infringement is not.

JS said...

The premise itself-- a wacky murder mystery/shipwreck--could work, if you just use original characters.

And lose the magical bat guano.

And fix the other inconsistencies (it's so secret that only the US, Germany, and Japan know about it! ONCE AGAIN ALBANIA IS SHUT OUT)

Lucy Woodhull said...

Parody is a tricky business and a tough sell - I know, I have one... although my characters are original for just the reasons QS has given.

That being said, maybe take a look at the way "Night of the Living Trekkies" deals with Star Trek in combination with new (non-copyright-infringing) characters.

Your book sounds like a prequel, not a parody. It doesn't twist the characters in any way that I can see, and it's not funny, at least not from the query letter. If you're selling a funny book, the letter be funny, too.

Good luck, brave writer!

Josin L. McQuein said...

It's not just copyright here, it's also trademark, and that's a whole other ballgame.

Public domain allows Sherlock and Watson to become Dr. House and Wilson. His addiction shifts to Vicodin and he's brilliant at solving medical mysteries rather than murders -- but he still can't go around with the pipe, cap, and coat made famous by the films. Those are trademarked.

When you get into TV shows and movies, you get into trademarks - like their costumes and catchphrases.

Parody would be more like the Harvard Lampoon's "Nightlight". Everything from the apple core cover to "Belle Goose" and "Edwart Mullen" living in Switchblade, is a direct send-up of Twilight, but it's not a rip-off. It's more like an extended Mad Magazine sketch.

If you wanted to do a parody of Gilligan's Island, you'd have to do some major tweaking?

Just how did Gillian (lovable klutz that she is) and the Commodore end up wrecking the HMS Hookworm in the middle of a desert? And what on earth were "TV infomercial queen: Nutmeg Nichols", newly bankrupt, former billionaires:Dovey and Thirsty Howler XIII, "The Scientist, a failed doctoral candidate" and "Betty Sue, the pig calling champion of Briar Patch, Kentucky" doing on the out of commission luxury liner when it happened? Find out on this week's "Gillian's Beach".
^
|
|
That's the basis of a non-infringing parody. This query is not.

Bicyclefish said...

@LabRat @arhooley

The more I learn about the writer the more I suspect it's unfortunately not a troll. If it is, he's put a lot of effort into it for laughs, using Twitter , a website (the title without spaces), and Facebook.

siebendach said...

Thank You LabRat! It all makes sense now.

Inkling Child, there's an essay on this subject you might like, called "Here On The Island" by Lewis Napper. It explains a lot about Mary Ann. (Come to think of it, she IS mentioned once in the author's query, albeit indirectly with the words "farm girl".) Something fishy there.

But it's time for me to put aside how funny this subject is, and putting aside legal arguments about copyright that have already been covered, and concentrate on the quality of the query letter itself, separately from the concepts the query proposes.

I respect the concept that a good novel might, rarely, lack a single "main character", or that it isn't feasible to focus on one to the exclusion of the others in the query. However, I don't think this is one of those times.

Once you establish that this is a murder mystery, and that the seven castaways of Gilligan's island are the subjects, you no longer need to describe them because all know them so well. You can condense a huge portion of this to one sentence: "Each and every castaway had a motive."

M. G. E. said...

Frank L. Baum died in 1919. The "Wicked" novel was written in 1995, 76 years later. It was out of copyright. Gilligan's Island is not even close to being so.

Joel said...

Cats in Pajamas ... you're legit.

Dude. Sit down with a real lawyer. One whose title ends in Esq., not .org. ...

To quote Col. Bat Guano, "You're going to have to answer to the Coca-Cola company."

Draconium said...

I'm sorry, but i went to the guy's website. He's no troll, most certainly not. Dead serious. There's a sample chapter up and everything.

Joel said...

I just can't let this go.

Look. The point is: fair use. The relevant precedent seems to be--and I'm not a lawyer, but I can click links--"The Wind Done Gone".
And these guys? Settled out of court.

With Hollywood's penchant for remakes, reboots and retcons, they will defend their property, and they will pop you like a cherry tomato.

And do you think an agent would touch something like this? The Grail is An Option. No Hollywood producer is going to tent his fingers over his Fiji Water and cackle, "You're doomed. Doooomed!". No. They'll just cackle and look for someone easier to work with, and there are dozens of those.

So. Keep working on the hydrogen dirigible in your basement.

Did you know that 52 passengers can fit on a Greyhound bus? Next time you're driving, reflecting on these posts, think of how small that is.

You've been judged by flotsam.

Cornelia Grey said...

So, basically this is a 56'000 words long fanfiction.

There's nothing wrong with fanfiction. That's how lots of people started writing, myself included. But trying to sell it off to a publisher? Whoa. Reality check, buddy.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Now I, like Joel, have something I can't let go of.

The author's website.

I've seen so many posts by agents and writing-related bloggers telling writers that they've gotta have a website, whether they're published or not. And yet the following strike me:

1. Some very well-known writers either don't have a website, or have one that's a placeholder, not interactive, never updated. (J.K. Rowling's was like this for the first five books.)

2. Some unpublished writers have elaborate websites which showcase their writing, which doesn't seem ready for publication yet.

3. A small number of published writers have interactive websites with an actual following.

4. When I try to think of writers who went from website to publication, I can think of a few but they all have something in common: their internet following was humongous.

Guess what I'm trying to say is unless you really have the will, desire and talent (and luck) to make a splash on the internet, the website thing is probably a red herring. Getting a huge internet following may be more difficult than getting a publisher.

Alison said...

Yes, the website. What a tremendous case of hubris this guy has. Not only stealing someone else's characters and ideas, but insisting (through research done on Wikipedia, no less) that it's legal and above-board. Not to mention--after reading a few lines of his "sample chapter"--it's terrible. Sorry, Mr. B, but you'd do well to keep writing your IT stuff.

tallycola said...

If I didn't think this guy was a troll, I'd say there might be a way to get this book through as parody. But I'm not sure who the audience for this particular book would be.

A question for the shark: how do official tie-in novels work? For instance, in the Star (Trek, Wars, Gate) tie-in novel series, I know they sometimes get staff writers from the show to write them, or ask somewhat notable sci-fi authors to do one. But a lot of them are written by nobodies or pseudonyms, and frankly, most of the official tie-in novels I've read were little better than fanfiction in quality (or often, much much worse).

Is it possible to query the publishing house of a line of tie-in novels with an idea, or a resume or something? Or is that something you could only do if you are already a published, established author?

Same with ghostwriters for things like Sweet Valley High - how does one swing that gig? Do they have to be lucky and get offered it on the back of an existing writing career or is there a way to apply? I don't imagine I could write a novel-length SVH fanfic and expect it to get published.

I'll stop now before I get even more off topic heh.

Irene Troy said...

I’m stuck in a hotel room in a very freezing tiny-bitty town, waiting for the snow to be plowed so I can get back on the road. Being hopelessly bored, I decided to do some web surfing and found the author’s website. A few things jumped out at me immediately: please, please, don’t rely on Wikipedia for accuracy of legal advice (or anything else for that matter). If you want accurate legal advice, see a lawyer or at the very least, visit a legitimate legal advice site. However, the real problem with this story is not one of legal entanglement, as thorny as this might prove. Unfortunately, having now read the excerpt on the author’s site, I have to agree with Alison – the stuff needs work, lots and lots of work. Moreover, (please, if I’m mistaken, someone tell me) setting up a website that advertises for an agent or publisher isn’t how this whole publishing thing works – at all. Agents don’t skim the web hoping to find the next great thing hidden on someone’s website. The way to sell a novel – or any writing – is to polish it till is shines even in the dullest light; write a decent query letter and start sending the letter out to as many agents as possible. Sorry, author, but it’s time to reexamine your thoughts about writing (and selling) fiction.

Jo-Ann said...

Author, your web-page states that your approach is acceptable, as you have created a parody, but I dont think this is the case.

You are attempting to parody something that is largely self-parodying, and you were forced to add all sorts of twists. Parody means taking existing characteristics and exaggerating them to such an extent that the inherent flaws become apparent. (See “Mad” magazine for excellent examples).

The characters of Gilligan’s Island were already larger than life.

There is little in your summary to suggest it is a parody, other than making Gilligan and the Skipper lovers. This is a parody of their camaraderie. Implying that the Skipper and Mr Howell were once lovers is certainly not a parody, as there was nothing to imply that they were fond (or jealous) of each other. Ditto for Mr Howell and Ginger having an affair.

A parody would be exaggerating the clean-living element of the story by having the men fail to even notice that Ginger and Mary-Ann were female. An (x-rated) parody would be to have Mr Howell do icky things to his beloved suitcases of cash.... see the point?

Let it go. Use your fertile imagination to create characters of your own, not to piggy-back on the success of other people’s creations.

Katrina S. Forest said...

Looking at the website, I'd have to agree that I'm pretty sure the author is serious.

What concerns me is the phrase "seeking literary representation" written all over the site asking for interested agents to e-mail him. That seems to be an open invitation for scammers. (Yes, legit agents do sometimes initiate contact with authors, but that's the exception, not the rule.)

alaskaravenclaw said...

I do not think this writer is a troll.

A troll is a person (I use the term loosely) who engages in deliberate cruelty for his own amusement.

The query's not cruel, and if this guy were trying to amuse himself by getting a query published on query shark, well

1. he went to an awful lot of trouble making a website and

2. the odds were against his letter being published.

I think he's just confused about what is and isn't acceptable. Now the question is whether he'll learn from this rather rough experience, or will shrug us all off as people who just don't understand.

I think willingness to learn is probably the biggest determinant of whether or not a writer will make it to publication.

Patrice said...

Well, this has been fun. I don't usually read all the comments, but I looked at all 63. And went to the esteemed author's website. One thing I haven't seen mentioned amongst all the sturm und drang is that the proposed manuscript is too short, at 56,000 words.

Yup, change all the names, tweak the descriptions, and make it a 5 or 12-hour cruise (and keep rewriting because you're not there yet). Get completely away from the Gilligan's connection. I still think it's a long uphill battle to get published, but at least you won't be immediately rejected because of copyright infringement concerns.

And by the way... I am an intellectual property attorney. Fifteen years experience working variously at the Patent & Trademark Office, at corporations, and in private practice.

Patrice, Esq.

JS said...

A question for the shark: how do official tie-in novels work?

One approaches the rights holders (or, more generally, publishers or book packagers who have been commissioned by the rights holders) with a letter of interest and credentials, and/or a specific proposal.

As for childrens'/middle-grade/YA series work-for-hire, this is a pretty helpful intro to how it works (in the US, at least).

alaskaravenclaw said...

Reckon the Gilligan's Island rights holders authorized this?

http://tinyurl.com/247p9v5

Which at this particular moment has a higher sales rank than any of my books...

/I need chocolate

Chris said...

Lessee... Turner Broadcasting isn't the "original creator." They may have purchased the rights, but the creator was a brilliant fellow named Sherwood Schwartz (still alive, I believe, at 94) who also created The Brady Bunch, among other things.

Having written several novels for publishers who actually purchased publishing rights to various movie and TV properties and then hired me (or people I know) I am familiar with the process known as "Work Made For Hire."

It's not fanfic, it's professional work done with the blessing and approval of the rights-holder. The publisher handles the licensing, the agent vets the contract, and the writer writes. Additionally, the rights holder generally has final approval of the work.

It's a specialized field with some well-extablished wroters: Donald Bain, Max Allen Collins, Lee Goldberg, Keith R. A. DeCandido,

For anyone actually interested in the "tie-in" field, more information is available at http://www.iamtw.org/ which is the website of the professional tie-in writers' organization. (Yes, we have an organization!) A lot more will be explained there.

tallycola said...

Thanks JS and Chris, those links are exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

Chris, in your opinion, do you think a query like 189, from someone who hasn't published fiction before, would help them get a foot in the door of tie-in writing?

Jonathan Ball said...

There is no possible legal defense for this project. It's doomed.

Gisele said...

The comments and links from JS and Chris may prove to be invaluable to the author. Perhaps, there is a way out of this conundrum after all.

Chris said...

Tallycola - Frankly, no. One, he's mashed-up several different franchises, which would kill the project before it got started - the rights are likely held by different companies, and getting them to cooperate would be in the same probability range as, oh, The Shark turning all Kumbaya.

Second, most/all such projects originate in-house with either the rights holder or their licensee, and writers are then solicited to submit proposals. This isn't a field open to over-the-transom submissions.

Third, most/all publishers are looking for a known quantity; someone who has shown they are easy to work with, can complete a manuscript on time and ON TARGET, someone with a grasp of the legal limits within which tie-in work is produced. In other words, a professional. They also need a writer who will produce a manuscript that stays within some pretty specific requirements. In Star Trek, for instance, we couldn't kill off characters, or introduce new ones, without the approval of Paramount.

Yeah, it sucks in many ways. It is difficult for a new writer to break into the field, and once you do you are still competing with some of those major names I mentioned in the previous post. For instance, I've sold six mystery novels to Berkley, but as long as Donald Bain is alive there is no way anyone else will write a "Murder She Wrote" book (besides, he's great!!). Same goes for Lee Goldberg and "Monk" (I believe).

Point is, you're going to have to write your own stuff and establish your credentials before you get a serious shot at one of those franchises. So why not concentrate on your own work, which you will continue to own? It's fun to play over in those other sandboxes on occasion (if you love the property, as I did with ALIAS), but in the end, your own work is what will build your career.

And this has gone far afield from the Shark's original premise, so I will shutup for now. Still, always glad to answer questions!

Stephanie Barr said...

@ Chris

Thanks for all the insight. I've never been interested in pursuing tie-ins myself, but I wondered how it was done and found your information fascinating.

Little gems like yours are what make coming back to these threads worthwhile time and time again.

Stephanie Barr said...

Rev 12/4:

This reads to me like someone who's so tickled at his own cleverness he can't stand it and thinks everyone else will be, too.

I'd say, post it with other fanfic among people who might just find this idea intriguing and clever. I just can't see anyone else interested. Certainly not me.

Without the GI tie-in it's so contrived and nonsensical, like a farce only without (so far) being humorous. With it, it seems, well, disrespectful and that's an odd thing to say about a silly story to begin with.

My guess is you think there's a bigger market for this than they're really is, enough of one to shield you from legal ramifications and the like.

Personally, I think this is a very limited niche and that accepting that will prevent you from making the wrong kind of name for yourself before you've actually written something commercially viable.

But that's just my opinion.

flibgibbet said...

Once again, why would an agent/editor want to take on a project that's sure to wind up in a protracted law suit and cost a bundle?

As for taunting an agent, basically calling them "chicken" if they don't, are you for real?

If you truly believe that this is a hot commodity, then pony up the cash to buy the rights, then approach the industry.

bzyglowi said...

Reading the revision, this doesn't seem to have been rewritten much at all; there is still a lot of the same wording as the original. It's still jumbled and confusing, and attempting to defend your perceived right to use these characters is unhelpful.

Also, there is some massive ellipse abuse happening in this query. Ellipses can be useful, and they seem to be a little more common in more modern writing, but they're still something you want to use sparingly. Otherwise your query reads like Shatner dialogue, with lots of... seemingly random... and unnecessary pauses... in the writing.

Kate Halleron said...

Ew. I think the revision is worse than the original query. To confusing and derivative you've added smug. Stop it.

I'll repeat what I said the first time. This is fanfic. Post it on fanfiction.net and move on.

Diane said...

Janet, stop giving this guy any more time. He's not listening nor is he interested in learning how to write a better query (or novel). Time to cut bait and run, Shark.

Jo-Ann said...

re: revision
Well done, author. Most queries on this blog improve after a revision. This is an example of one that actually deteriorated. I know that you need a thick skin in this business, but that doesn't mean ignoring the feedback. Have you failed to learn anything at all from the shark's comments?

The query is now a lengthy summary, and you've told Janet how to do her job.

You've kept the original characters' names and maintained the shipwreck situation, but changed everything else. You have mangled their sweet and mad personalities and motivations beyond recognition. It's certainly not parody. I dont even think that it's fanfic, as a true fan would at least pay homage to the innocent/ whacky humour that made the original so endearing. They now all sound so sleazy.

With all due respect, please chalk this up to experience and move on.

Gisele said...

Shakespeare already predicted this whole thing and made a verse about it:

“O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a parody
By any other name would be…”

The legality of this endeavor is thorny, at best. The writer calls this a parody, not because it is a de facto parody but, because parody is protected under the fair use doctrine. Thus a parody by convenience. Actually, by necessity. Maybe even by desperation. A pretty pleeease parody!

However, it seems that even the writer is having a hard time keeping the poker face when it comes to this issue. In an all-telling Freudian slip, the writer referred to the novel as a parody AND a parallel novel in the same query.

I am sorry writer, you put a lot of effort into this. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the fact that a parallel novel by any other name… well, you already know.

Joel said...

Just read your web site, where you whittle a forest of insight on Ms. Reid's blog into toothpicks of praise for your book, “A Three Hour Tour: My Life in Law School” and its sequel, “Book ‘Em Dano: My Decades in the Courtroom.”

My favorite quote on your website about Ms. Reid’s blog? "There are two primary topics of discussion among the 72 responses. In a fundamental way they all miss the point."

Marissa Doyle said...

Yes, I was gobsmacked by the way he took quotes from comments here to put in a sidebar of praise for his query letter on his website. I mean, blog comments? Seriously?

Still not sure if he's delusional, clueless, or just has an ego the size of Denali...but mostly he's just coming across as rather pathetic.

tallycola said...

Oh man the blog response on his website is just unbelievable. I can't believe he mangled quotes into PRAISE for his book (everybody knows what strategically placed ellipses mean and how they completely change the meaning of sentences, agents are too smart to fall for that).

I do like how he basically says the only sellable thing about his book is the possible (although not terribly interesting) "controversey". He basically says that is more important than an entertaining, engaging novel. I guess I've been approaching writing wrong my entire life!

tallycola said...

He also says his book is specifically NOT for fans of Gilligan's Island, but then goes on to say:

"How do you know this book is for you? Ask yourself, what did you think of when you heard the title?

If you thought …of the fearless crew this book is for you."

Why would somebody think that unless they were a fan of Gilligan's Island? "If Not for the Courage" sounds like a book about soldiers in the Gulf to me.

jdh said...

Wow! As one of the people who had their comments mangled into praise (complete with a posting to my page), I am infuriated with this author.

Query Shark has been a blast, and I will miss Janet (and the writing contests), but I am hereby officially done, as I will now need to remove my blog page as I do not want to be associated with this man's project. Argh. I am so mad I am going to let that run-on sentence stand.

Just goes to show that truly, no good deed will go unpunished.

Gisele said...

@ JDH

I hope you won't leave us because of this writer! What happened to you is unfair, I'd be furious as well.

Query Shark, are you able to take this query down, so that there is nothing for the writer to link/refer to?

I surely hope so because we have all been played. As it turns out, he is worse than a troll...

nn Angel said...

Its characters are always consistent with the characters as presented in the source material.
~*~
The above comment was on the author's site. I just wanted to point out that this statement is false. There are so many fanfics based around what the writer's thought should have happened in the storyline or with the chracters they're using. A prime example is all the relationship matching fans have done with the various Harry Potter characters, including one that made HP and Voldemort lovers.

So, no, the characters don't have to be true to presented form for the piece to be called fan fiction.

fairyhedgehog said...

@jdh, it seems a shame to let this idiot push you out of blogging. No one can take his writing seriously and he admits that the comments he "quotes" are "unabashedly edited" i.e. pretty much made-up.

Although he may not be a troll as such, treating him like one and ignoring him seems like the safest option to me.

Aslimmerkitten said...

My GOD author, you really have missed the point.

Regardless of whether the fanfic/satire arguments are valid, the simple thing is this just isn't any good.

Your query is confused and smug-sounding. The excerpt on your blog is terrible, my eyes glazed over while reading it.

Put the book down, along with your attitude. Stop stealing people comments and twisting them into compliments. Stop boasting about being told how awful you are. Put the book away, write something else, and come back to this in a few years.

You may think you are an undiscovered literary and marketing genius, but as far as I can tell pretty much everyone else feels you are not. This book is not going to sell. Live with it.

Kate Halleron said...

@jdh

Please don't go, and don't take down your blog.

I would suggest instead that you make a blog post about this experience. Then, if anyone does visit your blog because of this jerk (although I doubt it), they'll see what the truth is.

Most people probably see it already, but some need more illumination.

Author, there's nothing wrong with fanfic. I've written large volumes of it myself, every science fiction writer I've ever talked to admits to starting out with fanfic.

The thing is, you have to do it for fun, or at best for *practice*. You're not going to make a living at it, or be taken seriously with it.

Taking other people's words and twisting them to your own advantage is jerky in the extreme.

Deniselle said...

jdh: Are you sure anyone's going to read his page other than his friends? You could always make a post linking to the page and this page and putting things into context. It's obvious what he did. Even reading your quote on the page, I can tell something else came after and before it that was NOT flattering. Smart people are going to notice.

Elvis Henry said...

What I continue to fail to understand is why Janet Reid continually chooses completely terrible query letters to critique, instead of giving that help to people who have done a better job of landing closer to the mark. I mean, this query NEVER had a chance at all.

Lehcarjt said...

It might be said that this query never had a chance, but it did bring up an important topic that QS hadn't addressed before.

Taymalin said...

Parody or not, anyone with any understanding of acquired brain injury and brain plasticity is going to be turned off by the label of simpleton.

It begs questions like, which part of the brain acquired the damage? How did the damage happen? Was it a physical injury to a specific area of the brain? If so, while there may be some problems in a certain area of functioning, the rest of the brain can, and does, compensate. The chances of someone being made a "simpleton" from physical trauma is low.

A bad hit of acid, on the other hand, can affect the entire brain, and that is much harder to bounce back from.

Without reading your MS it would be difficult to know if you handled it properly, but research into acquired brain damage certainly won't hurt if you have a brain damaged character.

BTW, labelling someone a "brain damaged simpleton" is not funny or clever. It's an offensive characature.

literating said...

Janet,

I enjoy agents mainly for one of two reasons: unquenchable kindness or spitfire humor.

You're the second kind. I loved this, it was good for my soul.

Lithopedion said...

Query Shark, you're getting trolled. I can say with almost complete certainty that this is a fake query letter.

Janet Reid said...

Really Litho? Why do you think so?

icedphoenix said...

I just want to add that the author would be protected by fair use if his work was a parody. Of course, based on the query, I can say that his work is clearly NOT a parody and therefore, not protected by fair use.

His idea, rather, falls more in the realm of what's considered a "derivative work," which the law defines as a work based on one or more preexisting works. Therefore, the author and BigBuckPublishing is NOT protected by fair use.

So while Ms. Reid is correct in saying that he and BigBucksPublishing would get the pants sued off them, it's b/c the novel reeks of a derivative work and not b/c it's a parody.

Lori said...

Thank you this a wonderful and fun site. The comments and archives are very helpful in the writing of my query letter.

JQ Trotter said...

I get the feeling that this might have started out as a crossover fanfiction of some sort. Then the author thought that they could make it into a stand alone novel of some sort. That kind of reminds me of 50 shades of grey, which arose from something similar to that. So to answer fairyhedghog's question, it is possible to change all the names and some of the details so that it can be considered an "original" work.

Whether you agree with it or not, it worked for 50 shades of grey. Even when it's twilight fanfiction heritage arose they were somehow still able to get away with it.

tomalanbrosz said...

Slowly working my way through the archives, and this post was a hoot.

I wonder if we'll all still be laughing when the writer files the names off this fanfic and makes a million dollars with "Fifty Shades On The Island."