Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
“Ever since I was a kid, red velvet cake has been my favorite.”
I know you’d never put that in your query (unless your book is about red velvet cake). But agents typically want you to include something about yourself in the query, so how do you figure out what to write? Here are the kinds of statements we typically see in query letters:
“I’ve been writing since I was born with a pencil in my hand.”
“I’ve been writing fiction since the third grade when I showed my first novel to my teacher Mrs. Zuckerman and she told me it was the best story she’d ever read in her life.”
“I’ve loved writing ever since I can remember.”
These statements say something about you, but they’re not relevant. And since so many people use them, they end up sounding cliché.
Your love of writing doesn’t help your case, because loving writing doesn’t make you a good writer. (Trust me on this.) And your lifelong penchant for writing is irrelevant because plenty of wonderful, talented authors didn’t write or get published until later in life. Richard Adams published Watership Down in his fifties. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish the Little House books until her sixties. Henry Miller was 44 when his first novel was published, Raymond Chandler 51. And don’t forget one of my favorites, Frank McCourt, didn’t publish Angela’s Ashes until he was 66.
So really, does it matter if you’ve been writing since you were a child? Either you have a salable book or you don’t, whether you started writing at six or sixty.
Keep your query letters on-point and focused. Only include information that’s germane to the topic at hand. Besides the actual pitch for the book, include such details as whether or not you’re previously published, if you’ve won any awards for your writing, and what genre of book you’re pitching. If you can’t think of anything to write about yourself, just give us a logline on you. “I’m a graphic designer, I live in sunny Florida, and I’m currently unpublished in fiction. I look forward to hearing your response.” Keep it simple.
Since you shouldn’t put it in a query, go ahead and tell me now: How long have you been writing? Did you start when you were five, or fourteen, or were you a late bloomer?
P.S. My third grade teacher really was Mrs. Zuckerman and I wrote my first novel then. It was about a horse who broke his leg and the rancher was going to shoot him, but the rancher’s daughter fought to save the horse, and went on to campaign for the end of shooting horses with broken legs. Now you know why today, I am not a novelist.
Your lifelong love of writing doesn’t improve your query letter. Click to Tweet.
In a query letter, there’s no need to say how long you’ve been writing. Click to Tweet.
Either you have a good book or you don’t, whether you started writing at 6 or 60. Click to Tweet.