Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
There are two query elements we commonly see, but hope to never see again. They are:
“I’ve been writing since the day I was born with a pencil in my hand.”
Or some such impressive statement about how long you’ve been writing. The corollary is: “I’ve loved writing ever since I can remember.”
The hard truth: It. Doesn’t. Help.
Yes, it tells me something about you. Go ahead and include it if you really feel it’s the most important thing I should know. But understand this: I’ll probably ignore it. It’s just not relevant to the question at hand, which is whether your book is something I should represent.
One of the reasons your lifelong penchant for writing is irrelevant is because plenty of wonderful, talented authors didn’t get published until later in life. Richard Adams published Watership Down in his fifties. Laura Ingalls Wilder published the Little House books in her sixties. Henry Miller was 44 when his first novel was published, Raymond Chandler 51. One of my favorites, Frank McCourt, didn’t publish Angela’s Ashes until he was 66. So really, who cares if you’ve been writing since you were a child? Either you have a saleable book or you don’t, whether you started writing at six or sixty.
“My mother [best friend, husband, Great Aunt Matilda] told me I needed to write my story.”
“For years, all my friends have been telling me I should try to get my work published.”
“God told me to write this book.”
None of this is relevant in a query. It doesn’t help an agent make a decision. Our experience tells us that there is rarely a correlation between how many people told you to write your story, and how good or publishable that story is. And yes, this includes God.
Your friends and relatives might truly love your work. But they most likely don’t know publishing. They don’t understand how high the bar is to get published these days. They may be giving you some valuable and much-needed encouragement, but they are not giving you informed advice.
What about God? Most likely, if you’re feeling strongly called to write your story, and even if you feel God’s telling you to share the message with the world, it still doesn’t mean God has promised you a commercial publishing contract. In my humble opinion, if God truly intends for you to share your book through traditional publishing, he’ll also give you the talent and the persistence to become a good enough writer to make it happen. So letting us know God has called you doesn’t help your case. (Plus, there’s the fact that when we’re dealing with Christian writers, it’s a given that they believe they are called.)
Please, don’t tell agents that others are telling you to get your work published.
With both #1 and #2:
Too many people say these things in their queries, so they always sound cliché. No matter how true these statements are for you, they’ll only bring your query down. Leave them out.
Q#1: Since I don’t want to hear 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?
Q#2: Have you played the “all my friends” or the “God” card? How’d that work for you? If you haven’t, go ahead and tell us here: What’s your experience with others or God telling you to seek publication?