May 20

The Query and the Author Bio

Writing the Query LetterI read an interesting article by Robert Lee Brewer, senior content editor at the Writer’s Digest writing community. It talked about the author bio in your query and book proposals.

According to Brewer, the bio “is a part of the query that has more potential to harm a pitch than to help.” (1)

Okay, if you weren’t scared of the query letter before, you probably are now!

Well, don’t fret too much, here is a list of Dos and Don’ts to watch out for:

1. Even if your pen name is different than your legal (check cashing and income tax) name, include your pen name in your bio (your byline).

To simply this, the name on your manuscript is the one you put in the query.

Brewer advises that it cuts down on confusion and possible author name errors.

2. Know before you submit the query what name will be your byline.

For example, my pen name is my maiden name. It is not my legal name. But all my online writing and books are under my pen name. So, that’s the name I would use for my bio in a query or book proposal.

This is the same for a pseudonym. Use the name you’re writing under for the book you’re querying.

If there’s interest in your manuscript, they’ll be plenty of time to discuss the details.

3. If you have relevant publication credits, include them. They must be relevant to the book you’re pitching though.

For example, you might be a kindergarten teacher and write tips for a local newspaper or magazine dealing with handling that age group. If you’re submitting a picture book geared toward the same age group, that’s relevant to the book you’re pitching.

If you’re a fitness trainer and writer for an online fitness magazine, you would mention it if your book is relevant to fitness.

4. You don’t want to include insignificant publication credits.

Brewer mentions an example of having a poem published in your high school magazine. While you and your family may be proud of that fact, the publisher will not be.

5. If you have relevant experience in regard to the manuscript you’re pitching, include it. Keep in mind it must be professional experience.

We can go back to the kindergarten teacher. If the story is about that age group, her occupation is definitely relevant to the book.

If you were an Olympic finalist or even on the Olympic team and you’re writing a story on achieving goals, your professional experience is relevant to the book.

6. Don’t mention that this is your first manuscript and you’re new to writing.

But what if you don’t have any credits or professional background relevant to the story you’re pitching?

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner suggests, “If you’re a member of a writers’ organization such as SCBWI, ACFW or ASJA, you can mention it.” (2) You can also mention and should mention if you have a degree in literature or writing.

That’s what I did when I first submitted queries and didn’t have any relevant publications or professional experience. I mentioned the writing organizations I was affiliated with at the time.

7. You can include information about your marketing reach, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social networks where you have LOTS of followers. If you have 10,000 or more connections of this kind, that can be significant.

Agents and publishers like to know an author, even a new author, can help sell his books.

8. Don’t include self-praise: “My book is the greatest thing since the Bible.” And, don’t mention that you think your children’s book will be great as a Disney movie.

The acquisitions editor or agent will determine for herself whether your story is worth her time, effort, and money.

9. Keep it short and sweet. Gardner mentions 50 words or less for a fiction story and longer for nonfiction. For the nonfiction you want to convey your qualifications in this instance.

10. Always be professional and thank the agent or editor for his or her time and consideration.

Brewer says, “When in doubt, leave it out.”

For more about the author bio and the query letter, check out the referenced articles:


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