I appreciate the help you provide with queries, and I feel I have a pretty good grip on the nuances of the first few paragraphs because of you. What stumps me is the paragraph where I am to provide my credentials. Other than some technical/promotional writing here and there, poetry published in the local paper, and a blog not at all related to children's literature, I have nothing to put in that paragraph.This is not the first time I've had this question, and it makes me think that the people (myself, perhaps, included) who talk about query letters are not making this clear enough: include credentials if you have them.
What do you recommend the unpublished author state about him/herself in that paragraph that won't disqualify his or her skills as a writer?
If you don't and
(a) You're writing fiction: who cares?
The only real qualifications for writing fiction are the (many) abilities of writing and an imagination.
(b) You're writing nonfiction: who cares?
The only real qualifications for writing nonfiction are the (many) abilities of writing and a high standard in quality of research. Some people have the starch for this, and some people can't be bothered to look farther than the first two paragraphs of Wikipedia entry or the first two pages of Google search. If you don't know what qualifies as an authority or what corroboration means, consider not writing nonfiction.
The things I would most like to see in the credentials section are: other books you've published, and in the case of nonfiction, any reason why you'd be good at talking about this topic. But don't, for god's sake, put things in here that will make me think "You think that's a qualification?!"
You all know about the crazies I see in submissions. And you all are nothing like them... when you're calm and using your common sense. If you start letting the query "rules" and the publishing process freak you out, then you might just start seeming a wee bit like them, even though you're not.
So stay calm. Remember that the two things you're most trying to bring across in your query are:
(a) What makes your manuscript so great.
(b) What a yahoo you are not.
Do those things, and you've got yourself a good query... and never mind about the credentials.