My last couple of posts have been about why I find it important to get an agent. While I am in the process of this step myself, you’ll learn more about what I learn and experience along the way. However, I wanted to talk about something very specific while we’re here.
Should you have accomplishments, as a writer, before querying?
If you’ve done any research on query letter (I’ll blog on the topic of the dreaded query another time) then you know most writers give a paragraph dedicated to themselves and the marvelous things they’ve done as a writer. What if you haven’t done anything that fantastic that others have heard about?
Many times I’ve found myself spending hours reading over articles about agents and queries. It’s an intense subject with much to learn. However, as I set out to write my first query, I felt inadequate. Most of the examples I read were fantastic! People had done so many great things; they won awards, got first place in a contest, went to mentionable conferences, accomplished intensive research projects that saved humanity… Then there’s me in my small living room with a medium but steady following on Wattpad, an iCloud full of stories no one has ever read, and a book I want published. Accomplishments? I count none mentionable.
I wanted to cry at this point. I’ve entered a few contests but never won, I’ve never been able to afford a conference, and I am certainly not the intelligent mad scientist who will save the universe. Then I started wondering whether I stood a chance of being published if I didn’t have anything worth mentioning about myself!
Greatly discouraged, I certainly felt like giving up until I could figure out what to do. I knew I could never give up but, boy, did I feel like it. The thing is, I felt pressured by all the fantastic examples to be just as fantastic and successful. How could I be when I’d never had the chance, though?
That’s why I’ve come to let you know there’s no need to make yourself sound fancier than you are. The bio section of a query letter is merely the cherry on top to add a little garnish. If you haven’t accomplished anything, then let this be an accomplishment of your own. Your writing will, ultimately, speak for itself and be the final factor in what wins you an agent. Even the writers with fancy bios are rejected! Do not be discouraged. If you don’t have anything to say about yourself that makes you stand out as accomplished, don’t worry about having to say anything at all! This process isn’t about you, after all, it’s about the story that you need to tell the world.
How do you know exactly whether you have something to say or not? Well, there’s a fairly definable list of DOs and DON’Ts. Read below to get an idea.
Things you SHOULD put in a query bio paragraph
- Previous TRADITIONAL publications. Be it short stories, fictional novels, nonfiction. Any previously published work is definitely worth mentioning!
- Awards and contest wins. Won an award for best short story in the galaxy? Put it in there! Won first place or even grand prize in a renowned contest? Yep, that goes in there too.
- Paid articles you’ve written or that were published in notable magazines/websites. This shows your writing was desired by business men/women, and that’s definitely noteworthy.
- Self published books that have done well. If you’ve sold thousands of copies of a self published book then that is well worth it to share with agents. Not only does it show you have success in writing, it shows you have success in marketing!
Things you SHOULD NOT put in a query bio paragraph
- How long it took you to write. I get it, you want to share the time and effort it took, the sweat and blood you poured into this story. Trust me, if mentioning my eight years of revising and editing would win me super duper points, I’d write that section in bold, italics, and underline!
- That you’ve already had it edited. Does this help the editor decide he/she loves your story? Not really. If a child sent in a story after editing it to their fifth grade knowledge, that doesn’t make it worthwhile necessarily (not that your story is that terribly simple, but leave it up to the agent to decide!).
- Your blog. They’ll find you if they want, but there’s no reason to mention a blog or website unless it is highly successful. DO feel free to paste your website in the signature of your email. This may present them the temptation to check your site out.
- Don’t mention it’s your first book. If you haven’t mentioned a previously published story, chances are you’ve never been published.
- Your age is unnecessary. Personal information like this can cloud judgement, even the professionals. You want an unbiased, purely professional opinion based on skill. Any age can have any amount of skill to the extent they’ve worked on it.
- Personal life/hobbies. This is not a meet and greet. If you divulge the fact that you collect stamps or go for long walks along the beach, this will make agents cringe. Let’s not make them cringe. They are our friends and we want to be there’s too!
Basically, I’m disqualified to enter anything in a biography paragraph about myself. Before I mentioned how I have a medium sized following on Wattpad. I’d like to make a note that if you have hundreds or thousands of followers and thousands-millions of reads on your stories, this could be something you include in your bio. I, however, do not have enough of those things to make it worth mentioning. Oh well…
In all of that, do not be discouraged if you find yourself unable to say anything great about yourself. This doesn’t make you less than anyone! The agent is after a great story, not a refined individual. If your story is edited and ready to go, then give it a go! When you’ve done all you feel you need to do in order to be ready, then it’s time to make that plunge!
Here’s hoping you and I find an accomplishment through all of this! Happy writing, my friends.
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