Monday, October 12, 2009

What Not to Wear or Mention in a Query Letter

I have written a YA book that I'm about to pitch to agents. Here's my dilemma. I have enjoyed a very small degree of celebrity as a participant on the TLC's very popular WHAT NOT TO WEAR, and my episode has been a popular, often-aired one for almost two years. (It has tended to be aired on significant Fridays like Easter, the Presidential election night, and New Years).
It doesn't matter; no one knows your name well enough to recognize it on a book.
I have been hemming and hawing about whether to include this factoid in my query letter to agents.
No. Tell the agent you sign with after you sign. She'll be amused by this bit of trivia.
I figure that the thought may cross agents minds that teenage and adult women who watch WNTW (there are a lot of them, and this is basically the demographic of my target audience) may be slightly biased towards buying my book, should it be published. I've read a lot of blog posts discussing the importance of self-promotion and having an established fan base in a market in which authors are expected to bear this burden to a great extent.
I don't know which episode you're referring to, but I can't think of an episode of that show that hinged on the promotability of the victim. Kind of the opposite, you know? Most of them are about how much help the victims need?
You may indeed be a very promotable person, but I don't think this brush with fame is much of a stepping stone. (Of course the agents who read this blog are welcome to express differing opinions, if there are any.)
All media time helps, right? Should I keep this biographical detail out of my query? Let it be stated that this book has nothing to do with makeovers, fashion, or anything of the sort. Thanks! I'd be laughing now, if I were you. :)
Good luck with your search!

17 comments:

Aimee States said...

I would not go that direction. No.

Anonymous said...

Presidential election nights tend to be Tuesdays.

Anonymous said...

Query Alyssa Eisner Henkin. She gave a whole speech about comparing WNTW with writing books. She'll know your name.

Jill Edmondson said...

Oh if only we could capitalize on our 15 minutes of fame... if only the glory of winning the grade 6 spelling bee could be heaped over into my book promo.

I'm realistic enough to know that something like this does not really matter, does not make a difference.

But it can't hurt - I don't think - to mention it. Perhaps there is that one out of a thousand who makes the connection between the prior claim to fame and the new book... If it gets one person to buy your book, I'd say it's worth it.

Thanks, Jill
www.jilledmondson.blogspot.com

The Storylady said...

It seems to me the fans of the show might recognize her name if they pick up the book, and maybe be more inclined to buy it - "Hey! I remember her! She was on WNTW!" But I can't imagine jacket copy saying, "Brittany was on the popular show WNTW, and now you can read her book 'Vampire Dragons Eat Manhattan.' The two don't seem relevant to each other.

Eilonwy said...

Although I think this bit of trivia would make a lovely tagline after an author photo (and would almost guarantee the reader would look twice to check whether your stripes were coordinated with your florals), I can't imagine that it would do you any good at all in a query letter!

If I'm wrong, though, I need to know so that I can make better use of my childhood appearance on Bozo's Circus (no, that is not sarcasm but a special biographical fact all of my own--and I've got the signed clown photo to prove it!)

Kate said...

No matter how often the episode airs, you can't plug your future book on a show that taped in the past.

The WNTW gig is only useful for expanding your platform if you have a way to tell that audience you have written a novel they might like. If there is some huge WNTW online community in which to do this, that's great, but not a significant advantage over any other author promoting themselves online. Therefor, you're in the same boat as everybody else; you have to make the agent fall in love with your book.

Besides, it really seems that the less you say about yourself in a query the better. Their default reaction to *everything* is negative, so why give them unnecessary fodder for scorn? They want the query to be about the book so keep it about the book.

GhostFolk.com said...

Does your novel feature a fashion challenged main character?????

Wow, if so. That might work.

If not, I'd seriously consider writing a YA novel with a high school fashionista pair who engage in something similiar to WNTW (perhaps even on a national level). Were "the victim" to be the protagonist, even better.

You do that, I'll be your agent.

[Only kidding. I am NOT an agent and woefully lack every skill reuired to be a good one.]

Jill E., you could capitalize on yoru experience if you wrote a novel about a person who competes in and wins the Grage 6 spelling bee. No?

WNTW Fan said...

Even if you can't use the information in the query--and I'd leave it out if for no other reason than most of the WNTW "befores" were amazingly dorky--you'll have clothes for your book tour.

Oh, and I never heard the answer in all my years of watching the show: Is the backpack supposed to match the sneakers?

Clare K. R. Miller said...

I can't imagine that being on WNTW could help your book. They don't identify the victims by full name (unless they're already famous somehow, like the Blossom actress). No one will look at your book and say "hey, she was on WNTW!"

clindsay said...

I pray that query was a joke.

Paul Greci said...

Focus the query on your book. Include in your bio just what is relevant to your book and/or related writing credits.

Anonymous said...

I find it amazing that not one of the writer who commented here was angry. I say this because in just about every query I read, writers go on and on about being a local celebrity and then argue when I point out that books are sold internationally (check the bitching going on because amazon charges more for foreign uploads than they do American--international sales).

Trixie said...

I think the real question is who is NOT on a reality show anymore?

Ebony McKenna. said...

All the advice I have read about query letters says to say what is in the book, and then to list any writing credits, where relevant.

Unless your book is a guide to surviving reality television, I would not mention it because it is not relevant to this book.

Good luck.

London Mabel said...

I've watched a lot of WNTW and don't remember a single name. BUT once your book is published I would definitely put it in the bio as a Fun Fact, and in the bio if you're doing a store appearance. I DO think it might influence people to come to your reading... so they can ask you what it was like being on the show! If you're willing to talk about it with your audience, they might still walk away with the book. Unrelated though they may be.

(I work in a bookstore, and it's hard to get people interested in a reading by an unknown fiction writer. That's why I think it would help you.)

Maya / מיה said...

It could also help build her platform if she starts a blog... "What not to Write" or something. One of the former contestants on America's Next Top Model has an extremely popular blog, and I found it via reader comments on a "where are they now?" feature on ANTM contestants. Of course, she's also surprisingly witty and her blog is about her life as a working model in Asia, so it all works together. (And btw, she should DEFINITELY get a book deal.)

On the other hand... ummm... a lot of contestants on WNTW don't come across as very sane. So participation in the show might not be something to promote.