1. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Queries/Submissions Query Letter - Bio ?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by joanna, Oct 31, 2012.

    Most books/articles I've read about query letters recommend that your last paragraph mention your bio/credentials.

    I don't want to mention anything irrelevant, and I don't have any real experience in the field. My degrees and career are all totally unrelated to writing.

    Should I mention that 1) I've been writing since I was very young or that 2) I was published by a college magazine? Or are those things irrelevant too?

    If I can't mention those things, should I include ANYTHING in the bio, or just skip it altogether?

    Thanks!
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    What do the publisher/agent guidelines say?

    I did an internet search and found contradictory advice. Some sources say you should include a bio, and others say you can leave it out if you don't have relevant credentials. So I would imagine you can leave it out if the guidelines don't ask for it. If the guidelines do ask for it and you can't think of anything, I would do a Google search and look for examples for people in your position (I'm sure there are plenty).
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    Should I mention that 1) I've been writing since I was very young or that 2) I was published by a college magazine?

    ...no!... only paid credits matter...

    Or are those things irrelevant too?

    ...yes!...

    If I can't mention those things, should I include ANYTHING in the bio, or just skip it altogether?

    ...skip it altogether, unless you happen to be an expert or have a wealth of experience in a field relevant to the book being offered...
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is tough. I've seen lots of agent advice saying not to include irrelevant biographical information. But I was just at a conference with a bunch of agents, and many of them said they like the biographical information. Their stance is that it's at the end, and if they liked the rest of the query, either your bio info is additional info that gets them to see you're a real person and might point out something they like, and if they don't like it, but liked the rest of the query then it doesn't matter, because what they're focusing on is the info about your book and whether you can write.

    It's very subjective and like many things in this business, there is directly conflicting advice. Go with what seems right to you.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is tough. I've seen lots of agent advice saying not to include irrelevant biographical information. But I was just at a conference with a bunch of agents, and many of them said they like the biographical information. Their stance is that it's at the end, and if they liked the rest of the query, either your bio info is additional info that gets them to see you're a real person and might point out something they like, and if they don't like it, but liked the rest of the query then it doesn't matter, because what they're focusing on is the info about your book and whether you can write.

    It's very subjective and like many things in this business, there is directly conflicting advice. Go with what seems right to you.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think if you're not sure, rather skip it. The query should be as short as possible anyway - and it means it could give you that extra one or two sentences to expand on your book instead (if it needed it, that is) :)

    But I don't think it matters so much anyway if you kept your bio to a maximum of 2 short sentences. An agent's not gonna growl and say "Well this book sounds great but since you'd mentioned that you love to paint in your spare time, CLEARLY you're *insert insult here* and so I not gonna represent you after all!" Like, that would just be silly.

    I think people worry a little too much - sure we're all eager to please the agent, but they're humans, not machines - even if your bio was completely irrelevant, assuming you don't make it a full blown 10-line paragraph, I think it's fine really. Just keep it down to 1 or max 2 sentences if the bio is irrelevant to the book, or skip altogether if you're not sure.
     
  7. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've heard lots of different takes on the matter. Contrary to what people who think they know it all tell you, nobody seems to agree. I've heard actual literary agents say both.

    My advice is to see what the agent in question is looking for. If they ask for a bio, give them one. (And most of the ones I've seen have asked for one. If you find one who doesn't, than I suppose you can try without one.) Writing from a young age is probably unnecessary but your writing experience is your writing experience. You can't make up credits.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    relevant paid credits should always be mentioned...
     
  9. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the agent asks for a bio, you give your bio. Period. Your bio is your bio. If the strength of the actual story pitch is strong enough to get their attention in the first place, the bio's contents shouldn't matter much. But if they want it, give it.
     
  10. The Crazy Kakoos
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    The Crazy Kakoos Member

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    There are probably people who have experience with queries that will/have answered already, but I've gone to school for business and have been around business for a little while and tend to look things like this as a job application or a sale pitch. Agents, being in business themselves may not care about anything irrelevant to your history in making money in the book biz. If you have nothing and have to put something I'd probably just write a sentence about you looking to start your writing career here.
     
  11. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    Excellent point. I'm a retired businessman, and have read 100's of job applications and resumes. It's amusing to learn how an applicant likes fishing or cooking and perhaps believes that will help them land a job. Everything that is relevant should go into a Q letter and nothing else, unless requested.
     
  12. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    I think that brings us to a point about relevance. It might not matter that you enjoy gourmet cooking in your off hours, but if you are writing murder mysteries and are a retired homicide detective, that is a relevant tidbit that may make your writing more realistic AND is highly marketable.

    One agent says on his website that the bio is very important but, if you are a plumber who writes about serial killers, he likely won't be interested.
     
  13. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    As I stated earlier, I was just at a conference for agents and authors, and these last couple posts made me think of my conclusion from attending said conference. What I saw further cements the idea that there just is no right answer. The question of finding an agent is not so different from the question of how do you find a friend or how do you find a husband -- you're looking to establish a relationship, and it's impossible to give a blanket answer on how to do that, because it's so frequently based on that subjective, intangible 'something' sometimes referred to as 'chemistry.' You either click with someone or you don't.

    Obviously, this is a little different, because you're looking to establish a business relationship, but what agents most want is a client they can work with. They don't want a difficult client. If they enjoy working with you, your relationship is going to be much more successful. One workshop I attended was a Query Letter Critique, wherein agents reacted to actual query letters (anonymous) and indicated where they'd stop reading. Later, they showed some examples of query letters that worked -- where the agent signed the author. Oddly enough, in many instances, there wasn't a whole lot of difference between some that were successful and some that weren't. A couple times, an agent had submitted some letters from clients that had 'worked,' yet other agents on the panel were baffled as to what the agent had liked. They hated the particular letter. (Due to some extenuating circumstances, some of the agents who had planned to attend could not.) Even when the agents did explain what they liked, very frequently, they had to say that the query letter did break the rules, but in this particular instance, they did keep reading and eventually signed the author. This was always because of some "lucky" connection that surfaced from the query -- some mention of something the agent liked, or some particular thing about the story that especially appealed to that agent due to the agent's hobby or interest in some subject.

    On top of this, the agent has to be in love with your story. They have to really believe in it, because they have to think that they can sell it. They're going to be spending a lot of time and energy trying to do this. So they have to see something in your query letter that leads them to think they might love it. When they see hundreds of query letters at a time, you don't have a lot of opportunity to show them something that they think they will love.

    You can also think about it this way -- how many books have you read that you have truly loved? That you've wanted to shout to everyone, "You must read this book!" Not just that you liked a book, but that you really loved it. (And we're talking about published books that have already been through some sort of screening process.) It's probably just a few of the many books you've read. The agents want to find those books that strike them that way. But it's very hard to tell what will spark that.

    So yeah, maybe if you're a plumber who writes about serial killers, that will mean nothing to 99 percent of the agents. But maybe you just happen to find the agent whose Dad was a plumber. And the agent loves watching documentaries about serial killers, but has never seen a good fictional account come through his inbox. Is it worth including that info for all the agents you query? That's something only you can assess. (If your agent has even read as far as the point where you've put in your biographical information, they have liked something about your story.)

    Ultimately, you've got to do your homework. Find out everything you can about the agent you're querying. If you get any sense of what that agent likes, that's what you should try to emphasize in your query letter.
     
  14. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Thanks so much, everyone, for your input. :)
     

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