1. Chris
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    Chris New Member

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    How important are credentials?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Chris, Sep 27, 2007.

    I am a new writer (in the sense that I am now working on my first serious attempt at a novel) and am currently a member of the U.S. Air Force. I have an AA in Chinese, but I am planning on getting a bachelor's before my enlistment is up. I would like to start trying to get published around that time as well.

    So this is my question. As an unpublished author, how important are credentials in trying to get your first work published? I will have (presumably) a BA in English or writing or some other area, but no real writing experience (that can be cited as credentials). Aside from a degree, I have military experience as well as a good general knowledge of Chinese language and culture, both of which are major factors in the book I am currently working on.

    How do these things factor in being taken seriously? Are credentials a major consideration for publishers/agents?

    All this is, of course, presuming that the work in question is well-written and otherwise likely to be published.
     
  2. Chris
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    Chris New Member

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    Two additional questions:

    What are good ways to build up solid credentials?

    also-

    What are your thoughts on bachelor's degrees? Which degrees are most valuable in preparing for a writing career, specifically if you plan on writing fiction?
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chris,

    The degree will help you with respect to building your knowlege base and writing skills, but a publisher will be far less influenced by your degrees as opposed to the quality of the writing demonstrated in a manuscript.

    While areas of expertise and credentials are more influential in non-fiction, with fiction, depending on the topic--book written, expertise (experience in Chinese and the Air Force for example) can lend authority and influence the consideration an agent or editor may give to reading your manuscript after reviewing your cover/query letter.

    But, in the end, the quailty of the writing is what will sell (or not sell) the novels you intend to write.

    My opinion about degrees with respect to writing. English or literature wouldn't hurt. Some say creative writing degrees and journalism are better. I don't know.

    It may also depend on what you hope to write. Degrees (actually the studying in the area more than the degree...but a degree never hurts outside of writing either) in History or some of the sciences may benefit your writing. History and Physics, for example would help with Science Fiction. History with historical fiction. History can be a good foundation for fantasy. Some of the sciences would help with mystery...

    I know I didn't give a specific answer, becuase I am not sure there is one with respect to earning degrees and how it translates to a successful writing career.

    As far as building credentials, sometimes selling short fiction to quality professional markets in the genre you intend to write/sell novels can give you a leg up. Again, in the end, the quality of the manuscript you submit to an editor is what will count the most.

    Terry
     
  4. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    In non-fiction, it's helpful to have credentials in the subject you're writing about. Experience is better than academic qualifications, imo--it makes for a more entertaining read.

    (I wouldn't read a book about how to design a building from a recently-qualified architect, but I might very well read a book about life on the streets by a guy who's spent forty years as a street-sweeper.)

    In fiction, I don't believe that any credentials or qualifications really sway the decision at all. I think slush pile readers accept or reject your manuscript based on the quality of the writing alone.
     
  5. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    The writing education you get at school in an English Department depends on the school. A BA is mostly General Education with only a small percentage in your field. A creative writing degree is a BFA, MFA. It is a higher level degree than a BA/MA. In the case of Creative writing (also Art) the MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) is the Terminal Degree, meaning you cannot get a Ph.D. Where as with a BA you can. With an MFA, you can teach at community college level. This may come in handy if your novels do not do as well as you imagine. You will still need a day job.
     
  6. Skipdonahue
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    Skipdonahue Member

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    The only credential that count in Novel writing is Novel writing. If you have things published under your belt that closely resemble the genre you're trying to get published in, then tell your agent/publisher about it in your query letter, but if you don't, don't say a thing. If you've published an article on rose gardens and want to publish a sci-fi novel, don't mention your article. They could honestly care less.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    skip's nailed it!... all except for the erroneously-reversed expression, 'could care less'... truth is, they couldn't care less... as in, they won't give a rat's rear what degrees you have, if you're writing fiction... unless, of course, it's historical or science-based fiction or whatever and what you got your degree/s in make your work more believable than ones written from imagination only...
     
  8. Skipdonahue
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    Skipdonahue Member

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    How dare you call me erroneous! I don't care if you're right! :)
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but you're erroneous in claiming i called you erroneous... read my post carefully and you'll see i called the words you wrote erroneous, not you... of course, now that i have called you erroneous, you can unerroneously take umbrage at my having done so... ;- )

    hugs, m
     
  10. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    ooh! I actually might be getting my MFA! I would love it because I can teach in college (who wouldn't want to learn writing from me?)

    I actually do think people look at credentials, but usually only if they are of the fantastic variety. For example T.C.Boyle and others always seem to have book jacket info saying they are graduates of the University of Iowa Creative Writing Workshop because it is one of the best writing MFA's in the US. Also the whole, If you are writing a book about trashmen, and you are a trashman, you have good credentials. However on the other hand if your next book is about dogcatchers, then the trashman credentials don't work any more, do they?
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what goes on a jacket flap is not what should go in a query!...
     
  12. SAGMUN
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    SAGMUN Member

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    For forty years I worked as a Design Manager in publishing. Over the years I bought millions of dollars of illustrations. Not one dollar was spent because of credentials.

    This selection process is the same for Acquisition Editors. They want a novel that will sell. Better yet, be a run-away best sellar like the Harry Potter series The author didn't have "credential."
     

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