I’m the first person who loves a good laugh, and I’ve been known to snort for air when my funny bone has been properly massaged. But humor is a tricky thing, so writer beware.
Firstly, a query is a job application. Would you use humor when filling out an application to a job you really want/need? Is it appropriate? There are times when humor helps make a query stand out, but it’s also because the subject matter leans toward the lighter side of life, and the author uses it to enhance their pitch.
“I’ve often wondered how much force it would take to invert my belly button, or the impact of 100 escapee gazelles would have on a small midwestern town. I realize this isn’t something that will promote world peace or solve the current financial crisis, but random thoughts such as these do make my bride suspect my sanity. They are also what keeps my protagonist, Barry Wahler, from losing his mind as a day trader on Wall Street in my novel THE GORILLAS ARE LOOSE ON WALL STREET…”
As you can see, it’s wholly unnecessary, but it’s a nice transition to the actual pitch. I love these kinds of queries because it shows me the strength of the author’s wit and writing. This is a huge difference between simply sticking something “funny” into your query that is unrelated to your subject matter.
For example, I often wrote about my first secretary, The Beagle, who has since retired and is now soaking up the life in San Clemente with her real daddy – my son. Since then, I’ve hired on The Rescue Beagles, who are equally deficient in their phone manners and filing duties, but do, however, embrace their love of shredding queries that miss the mark. So as an example of the “unrelated funny,” I see many queries imploring me not to feed their queries to these two undependable employees. No worries. All queries are electronic, and The Rescues know full well that eating my laptop would put a damper on our relationship.
Trust me (holding hand over where heart should be); the Rescues reference has been done to ad nauseam…heavy emphasis on nauseam. It’s gotten to the point of being my own personal cliché.
Another attempt of breaky-the-ice-y humor is the salutation “Dear Kindly and Benevolent Editor.” I’ve used this with example query letters over the years, so when it’s parroted back to me, I also kinda groan. You read some of my blog posts or went to a writer’s conference seminar where I spoke. I get it. But it’s not professional.
It isn’t necessary to break the ice, since we have no relationship to begin with. You have a project to pitch, I’m open for queries. It’s a supply-side marriage that needs to introduction or hand-holding.
Now, will stuff like this earn an instant sudden death rejection? Of course not. It’ll simply make me roll my eyes. And no one wants to start out a query with rolly eyes. Be careful with humor. It’s subjective and should only be used where appropriate.