Tuesday, January 6, 2009

This Is My Diploma in Higher Math, and This One Is for My Study of Arboreal Squid. So You Can See I'm Qualified.

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.

What do you recommend the unpublished author state about him/herself in that paragraph that won't disqualify his or her skills as a writer?
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.

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.

17 comments:

Ugly Deaf Muslim Punk Gurl! said...

What if we're playwrights or screenwriters? Can I also mention that I've had my plays performed in London?

AC said...

Ok here's a whatif: What if my novel is about a journalist and I myself am a journalist--is that worth mentioning? I don't consider working at a newspaper as a qualification for writing fiction, but I guess it could demonstrate my familiarity with novel's subject matter and also that someone actually pays me to write stuff for them on a daily basis.

Editorial Anonymous said...

The important thing in terms of performances of your writing, as I'm sure you know, is by whom. Low-rent community theater? I probably don't care. A well-respected company? Interesting.

Editorial Anonymous said...

AC: sure, include that. Verisimilitude is nice.

BuffySquirrel said...

Arboreal.

Please don't hurt me :).

Editorial Anonymous said...

Ah, thank you. Everyone needs an editor sometimes.

Diane T said...

Can I just say I would come to this blog every day just to read your post titles?

Thanks for the giggle, EA.

Deirdre Mundy said...

So... Someone got Pratchett for Christmas? =)

Anonymous said...

Do you really mean that if a would-be children's author happens to have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, or perhaps took a Silver Medal in the Olympics, you don't want to hear about it (unless and until they qualify picture book writing as an Olympic event)?

Editorial Anonymous said...

Yes, most editors would want to know if you had won something very prestigious.

Speaking for myself, though, if it were nevertheless an award unrelated to the topic on which you were writing, I would only want that information once I had gotten farther with this manuscript than a query.

Noting in a query that you won a completely unrelated but well-known honor is the same thing as noting that you are a celebrity. Some editors will be turned off; some won't.

Which kind of editor do you want?

Christian H said...

I'm trying to imagine an arboreal squid, and my verdict is that I want one.

Kim Kasch said...

Love this post: Higher Math - not so much.

But Arboreal Squid, that should be worth something. . .

;)

Deirdre Mundy said...

Christian: Read Terry Pratchett's latest "Nation."

Arboreal Squid abound.

christine tripp said...

Noting in a query that you won a completely unrelated but well-known honor is the same thing as noting that you are a celebrity.

So the fact that I am, in real life, Madonna, I should keep to myself, right?:)

christine tripp said...

When I first starting to mail out promo's to publishers my resume was laughable. Of course, at the time I did not think so. I had nothing really to put on it, so of course did the typical, I'm a mother, I've drawn all my life, people tell me they like my work, hahaha, soooo sad:)
I know now that I only need to include my contact information, the art will have to speak for itself or not and maybe the mention of a few better known publishers that I've worked with... knowing full well the postcard will only be in the editor or art directors hands for a second or two leaving little time to read much else.

Jennifer said...

If your blog is related to the subject of your fiction, should you mention it?

And what if your fiction is about a culture with which you are intimately familiar not because you come from that culture but because you married into it? Mention it?

Peter Mc said...

My diploma is in benthic owls. And I for one welcome arboreal squid, they are geat during the apple picking season. Except when they get excited then it's ink everywhere.