With Alex Ruben's first book, 8-BIT APOCALYPSE, due out later this month from Overlook Press, I wanted to share his original query letter for the book.
I've shared quite a few of these for other clients' books as their pub dates got closer, including queries by Sangu Mandanna, Samira Ahmed, Kati Gardner, and Anna Hecker, but this is the first time I've got a non-fiction query to share, which are a little different than pitches for novels.
Let's have a look, and see what you can learn. And if this was helpful, please pre-order Alex's book as a thank you!
I am currently seeking representation for my book Armageddon: The Haunting True Story Behind an American Video Game Classic, a gripping, non-fiction account of the creation, cultural impact, and nightmarish repercussions of Missile Command, one of the biggest and most celebrated video games of all time.
A bit about the book: In the height of the Cold War, Missile Command was unleashed on American arcades. Featuring flashy graphics and inventive gameplay, it was an immediate hit captivating the attention of gamers everywhere and cementing itself as a pop culture icon for decades to come. Haunted by vivid nightmares of nuclear holocaust brought on by his obsessive work on the game, Dave Theurer’s message of the futility of nuclear war had been made clear — but at what cost to its creator? Exploring the inner-workings of Atari and its wild team of programmers, Armageddon explores the importance and critical cost of Missile Command… told by the people who were there.
This might sound familiar to you as it stemmed from an initial story I wrote on Polygon more than two years ago. Upon pulling praise for that article, I stumbled upon your tweet and subsequently saw that you were looking for pop culture books! I’m a leading video game journalist, having written for more than 30 different outlets across web, print, and television, who specializes in capturing the human element of games. Having seen your enthusiasm about the portion of the story I published on Polygon, I could think of no one better to represent my debut book and help me share this with the world. It’s been my passion to turn this story from one that video game fans will enjoy into something that anyone with an appreciation for pop culture will want to pick up — and I hope you find it to be right down your alley.
If you’re interested in reviewing my proposal, I would be happy to send it over ASAP. I am currently querying several agents. I’m open to answering any questions and would love the opportunity to explore any potential ways we could work together to find an appropriate publisher.
Alex does so many things right in here, some of which are specific to querying a non-fiction book, so let's talk about them.
The Hook: He sums up the hook behind the book really quickly in that first sentence. It's a book about Missile Command, the impact it had, and the nightmare it unleashed on the creator. Boom. He's got me.
The Book: He spends two paragraph dishing the premise of the book, which is a story that's fairly unknown. So it's good that he digs into it. While Missile Command is somewhat of a household name, the creator's name isn't.
The Cook: And last, he gives plenty of details about himself that are SO KEY in non-fiction.
When it comes to a non-fiction book pitch, it's so important to highlight who you are, and why you are the right person to write this book. What's your platform like? How are YOU the expert?
Alex is clearly the expert, as he's written a giant expose on the subject for one of the leading video game publications out there, and as a gaming journalist, has written for 30+ outlets. The original query linked to his portfolio and the piece that inspired the book, so it was easy to see just how accomplished he was. And is!
And there you have it, a perfect non-fiction pitch.