What to Write in the “Bio” Section Of Your Query Letter

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 11.49.53 PMGIVEAWAY: I am very excited to again give away a free book to a random commenter. The winner can choose either CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM or the 2013 GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS. Commenters must live in the US/Canada; comment within one week to win. Good luck! (Update: jenniferkirkeby won.)

In my opinion, a good query letter is broken down into three parts – the quick intro, the pitch, and the bio.  Strangely enough, the third section (the bio) often generates the most questions and uncertainty with writers. In fact, when I speak at writers’ conferences on the topic of how write a query letter, there are typically a ton of questions about this small paragraph. So with that in mind, I have tried to cobble together some notes on what to include and what not to include in a query letter at the end when you’re talking about yourself and your writing.

FICTION VS. NONFICTION

Before you read on, you need to realize that the bio section of a query letter is a completely different beast for fiction vs. nonfiction. If you’re writing nonfiction, the bio section is typically long, and of the utmost importance. This is where you list out all your credentials as well as the greatest hits of your writer platform. The importance of a nonfiction bio cannot be overstated. It has to be fat and awesome. Fiction bios, however, can be big or small or even not there at all. Most of the questions and notes I address below are discussing the murky waters of fiction query bios.

YES: INCLUDE THESE ELEMENTS IN YOUR BIO

  • Mention prior traditionally published books. This is the top bio credit you could have — past traditionally published books. Always mention the title, year and publisher. Beyond that, you could quickly mention an award your previous book won, or some praise it received.
  • List any published short stories. If you got paid for them or they ended up in a respected journal, that is always a great thing to mention. It immediately proves you’ve got fiction writing cred.
  • Discuss self-published books that sold well. If you had past self-published books that sold well, feel free to quickly discuss them. Such discussion will show you already have a small (or big!) audience and know how to market. Concerning what number of sales is impressive, I would say you should sell at least 7,500 e-books before an agent will be impressed. Truthfully, the number thrown around at a recent conference was 20,000, but I believe that’s pretty high. (Note that your target number of book sales must represent true sales — not books downloaded when you gave them away for free as part of some kind of promotion.)
  • Tell if you’ve penned articles for money. Feel free to skip titles and just list publications. For example: “I’ve written articles for several magazines and newspapers, including the Cincinnati Enquirer and Louisville Magazine.” Brevity is appreciated here. The agent can inquire if they want more info.
  • Divulge awards won. The bigger and more impressive, the better. For example, if your manuscript was a finalist for the RWA’s Golden Heart Award, that’s a big deal. If you won third place in a local writers group contest where the group was so small that there is no chance to agent has heard of it, that award is likely worth skipping in the bio. Use your best judgment here.
  • Share if you’re active in a recognized, nationwide organization – such as the Romance Writers of America (RWA), the Mystery Writers of America (MWA), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the American Medical Writers, etc.
  • If you have an MFA. However, simply having a basic degree in English is common enough that a mention will likely not help you.
  • State your profession if it connects to the book. I wasn’t sure about this one until I heard several agents saying they wanted to know. What this means is that if you’re writing a legal thriller and you’re a lawyer, say so. Same thing for doctors writing about medicine/hospitals, musicians writing about musical protagonists, and so on.
  • Your research — but ONLY if it involves travel and seems like something amazing. If you’re writing a book with a Native-American protagonist, it’s not worth mentioning that you have done “heavy research on the subject.” (That makes it sound like you’ve scoured the web and read a few books — nothing that will knock anyone’s socks off.) But … if you spent two years living among the Sioux people on a reservation, then is that worth mentioning? I say yes. It’s research on a whole new level. If your novel is set in Paris and you worked there for 10 years as a translator, then say so.
  • Explain your platform if you feel like certain elements are impressive. Nonfiction writers must discuss platform at length. Fiction writers don’t need to discuss such elements, but certainly can if they believe they’ve made notable progress in an area. If you’re a blogger for a big YA Authors blog, say so. If you contribute to The Huffington Post or other websites/newsletters of note, say so. If you run a local writers’ conference, say so.

NO: SKIP THESE ELEMENTS IN YOUR BIO

  • Don’t say the work is copyrighted. All work is copyrighted. Saying so makes you look amateurish.
  • Don’t say the work is edited. All work should be edited. Saying your work is edited is another sign of an amateur.
  • Don’t say how long it took you to write it.
  • Don’t mention past, autonomous self-published books that did not take off. If the book you are pitching is the sequel to a released e-book, then you will have to disclose such info. But if this new book you’re pitching has nothing to do with previous self-published works that sold poorly, then just skip any mentions of those books. Elaborating on them will only hurt your chances.
  • Don’t say anything about a desired movie adaptation. And especially don’t say that you should play yourself in the film adaptation of your memoir.
  • Don’t mention you have a website or blog. Neither is a big deal, unless they’re huge in size. You can always paste the URL of your blog or website (or both) below your name in the e-mail signature for the agent to investigate if she wishes.
  • Don’t say this is your first novel.
  • Don’t say your age. The people who mention their age are typically very young or seniors. This will do you no good.
  • Don’t say you’re part of a small writers group at the local bookstore. Only membership in big organizations is worth noting.
  • Don’t say that family or friends or writing peers or your goldendoodle loved it. Their opinions will not sway an agent.
  • Don’t say God or aliens told you to write the story. This will get you the wrong kind of attention.
  • Don’t list your favorite writers. The only time to do this is if the agent put a call out for something specific, like “more fiction in the style of William Faulkner,” and your favorite write is indeed Faulkner.
  • Don’t say how many drafts of the novel you’ve went through.
  • Don’t talk about your personal life or what you like to do for fun: “I’m going through a nasty trial separation right now. Besides that, I just LOVE ‘Arrested Development,’ don’t you? Buster is my favorite character! Anyhoodles, thanks for considering my manuscript…”
  • Don’t say that the book was rejected by other agents.
  • Don’t say that the book is fiction, but partially based off your own life.
  • Don’t say that you have children, and that qualifies you to be a writer of kids books.
  • Don’t discuss pen names. If you want/need a pen name, that is definitely something that needs to be addressed, but you can tackle that subject when an agent calls you to offer representation and all topics are aired out appropriately.

THE MOST COMMON QUESTION PEOPLE ASK ME

“If I do not have any writing credits to my name, what should I put in the letter?” My answer: Nothing. As long as you are not writing nonfiction, then the bio paragraph is just gravy. If an agent gets two dynamite pitches on Tuesday morning, and one of the letters is from a writer with some short publication credits while the other lacks said credits, I bet you there is a 99% chance the agent will request pages from both scribes. If you create a great pitch and show you’ve got voice on your side, then agents will want to read more — period.

If you have nothing impressive to say about yourself, then just end your query with the standard finale, which is, “Thank you for considering my submission. I look forward to hearing from you.”

OTHER FAQs TO HELP YOU

  1. What if you have nothing about yourself to discuss, but the agent specifically requests a “bio sheet” or “bio paragraph” or something like that? If that’s the case, then this would be the one time to simply fill white space and talk about lesser things of importance. It’s a tough situation; just write whatever you can.
  2. I know you said I shouldn’t mention that my book was edited, but does an agent want to know if the edit took place by a professional writer acting as my mentor? My guess is that this will still not help you. The only time this will act as a boon is if you’re positive this literary agent knows the writing mentor personally. (Perhaps they’re friends on Twitter.) If the agent knows the mentor, then such name-dropping is a good idea. Otherwise, you’re just listing a person’s name that the agent has never heard of.
  3. Should mention nonfiction writing (articles/books) even if I’m pitching a novel? I say yes. These credits won’t be a magic carpet to getting your work bought, but any such accomplishments do convey the sense that you are a professional writer who has experience with content, deadlines, and dealing with editors. It also shows you’re in touch with members of the media, which equals platform.
  4. I’ve done writing in the past, but it was way in the past — like 20 years ago. Can I mention these credentials? Simply don’t mention the years. Just have a sentence like “I have previously contributed articles to the San Francisco Chronicle.” Done.
  5. Is this “bio” section of the query the best place to mention series potential for the book? There is no perfect place to bring up series potential, so it’s fine to write it here, if you like.
  6. Last piece of advice for composing a query bio? A cover-all piece of advice I have is this: No matter if you are discussing something notable (perhaps a past book that sold well) or something that is small (a local award), my best advice is to mention the point quickly, and then back off. If you blabber on about an impressive accomplishment, it may come off as egotistical. If you yammer about something not impressive, then it may look like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Mention things quickly and humbly.

WAIVER

Please note that all agents (and editors) are different. They all have their quirks and “likes” and opinions and eccentricities. Some may even pop up in the comments here to say “But I really ADORE it when writers list their influences.” You need to keep in mind that these comments are the opinions of one individual, not a collective whole. If an agent’s webpage requests that you explain in your query all about how long it took you to write the book, that is their style — their bag, their quirk. That does not mean it’s a good across-the-board principle. My job is not to listen to the likes of one agent, but rather consult 20 different opinions and synthesize the best answer for you. And with that said, I think the above guidelines are pretty solid for aspiring authors. Good luck!

GIVEAWAY: I am very excited to again give away a free book to a random commenter. The winner can choose either CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM or the 2013 GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS. Commenters must live in the US/Canada; comment within one week to win. Good luck! (Update: jenniferkirkeby won.)

Photo credit: Megan Myers/Flickr.

 

1+

About Chuck Sambuchino

Chuck Sambuchino is a freelance editor of query letters, synopses, book proposals, and manuscripts. As an editor for Writer's Digest Books, he edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. His own books include the bestselling humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, which was optioned by Sony Pictures, as well as the writing guide, CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. Connect with Chuck on Twitter or at his website.

Comments

  1. says

    What an excellent and comprehensive list! Great post. (Did you say 7,500 eBooks???? There are books that have hit the best-seller list that have sold fewer copies. Wow. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to promote! :) )

    0
  2. says

    This was helpful advice and I’m saving it to use as a reference. I have a bio in a proposal to revise and I’ll use this to make sure I’ve got everything helpful and nothing extraneous. Thanks.

    0
  3. Nathan says

    And this is one of those parts that I hadn’t even thought of yet. Gotta add another thing to the checklist…

    0
  4. Henya says

    Good to know that I’m doing it right. Thanks for the detailed information.

    0
  5. says

    Thanks for the input. Trying to sort out the different types of bios that are appropriate in various situations. Your post helps.

    0
  6. says

    Not listing a website or blog in the bio surprised me. I guess editors and agents are smart enough these days to do a Goggle and find it themselves. I’m cutting it from my query. Thanks for the excellent advice.

    0
  7. says

    WOWZA! Great info here. The bio section has always been a sticking to me. Now I know what to do. I think writers (myself included) make query letter writing way harder that it need be. Ha. Thanks.

    0
  8. Kristin Lenz says

    Thank you for sharing your advice – it’s a straightforward, comprehensive list for someone starting out. I also like how you always infuse your advice with bits of humor.

    0
  9. Monica MacDonald says

    This is such a helpful list. I’m new to the site and it looks like your other articles would be helpful as well…guess I know how I’m spending my Memorial Day!

    0
  10. Meesh says

    Thanks for your informative article. I’ll use it when I’m ready to write a query letter, in the meantime I just want to win something.

    0
  11. says

    I’ll admit – I’m a newbie on marketing and submissions to agents. (Of course, I’ve also been reluctantly coming to the conclusion that I need to completely rip my ms apart and start all over from the beginning.)

    I’ll be using elements of my former professional life (social worker), so this makes just good common sense.

    I’ve bookmarked this article so I can come back to it and do a point-by-point check when I’m ready to start submitting again.

    Thanks for all your help! I’ve come across your name many times since the beginning of the year and I’ll admit – I’m learning a lot!

    0
  12. Judy Whelley says

    Thank you. You have provided a check list for me to use for the bio section of my query letters. I appreciate this as I had little or no guidance in this are and this guideline is concise and immediately useful. Again, thanks.

    0
  13. says

    Thanks, Chuck. I love your straightforward clear approach here. I especially appreciate your advice on how to handle the blog issue. This article goes in my “query” file.

    0
  14. Lori A. Owen says

    This is a great article. I am not quite at the point of needing to do a query letter. I am writing my frst novel, or should I say rewriting my first novel. The first time sounded to technical. So, I am seeing if I can actually write some fiction out of it. That said, I will be saving this article so that I can have it ready when I start writing that query letter. Thank you for the article.

    0
  15. says

    Super informative post! I wrote k-12 non-fiction books (science) for years where education and experience were important. Now writing picture books, I find myself torn between listing a couple of my non-fiction books (to show I can meet deadlines and work with editors) or not. I’m not sure it pertains when it comes to fiction. Thoughts?

    0
  16. Ray says

    Always appreciate your articles and advice. What if one has no relevent professional (writing) credentials and/or experience ?

    0
  17. says

    What timely information. I am publishing a novel on June 1st and lining up events for the summer/fall. I look forward to reading what looks to be a wealth of information on the topic.

    0
  18. says

    This one is getting saved in my ‘advice from others’ folder for certain. It is funny that we can write about so many things, but stumble when we have to write directly about ourselves.

    Thanks for writing this!

    0
  19. says

    Wonderful list! Wished I’d found it years ago when I started the query process. Safe bet is to thoroughly research the agent you are contacting to see they’re individual preferences. Doesn’t guarantee you’ll bypass the slush pile, but shows your respect and professionalism — which may be a deciding factor. Thanks again for posting this!

    0
  20. says

    It’s amazing how a short letter can cause so much distress and sleepless nights. Thanks, Chuck, for clarifying the bio part of query letters. Even though I have learned those points, I still like to be reminded often because I never stop biting my nails (figuratively) each time I have to write another one. And thank you, too, for the giveaway!

    0
  21. says

    This article is a keeper – thanks for the concrete advice about what to write and what not to write. Just thinking about a query letter is challenging for me, so this is helpful.

    0
  22. says

    Some tried and true tips, as well as a few I’ve never heard before. I think I’ve got to agree to disagree with you on placing a book’s series potential in the bio. I guess you were joking, but even if there is no “perfect place,” that would surely be the worst possible place?

    0
  23. Lori R says

    Thank you for the great advice. I am hoping to start sending query letters within the next couple of months.

    0
  24. Christine Husom says

    Thanks, Chuck. Great info on the differences between fiction and non fiction bios. And I love your list of don’ts!

    0
  25. says

    I recently went through my “Sent” folder and realized that I was guilty at the start of sending out query proposals for some of the “Don’ts” you stated above. I mentioned my YA Fiction that flopped. I mentioned my hobbies as a writer. And I also mentioned my favorite authors. Now I know why I never got a second look. BUT, I do have to ask. I have read it somewhere that some agencies request that the writer should compare the similarities of their works to the works of a well established author’s work? I never understood this because I don’t see where you can compare most authors. (Apples and oranges.)

    0
  26. says

    Great post! Thanks for addressing fiction vs. nonfiction as well as experienced vs. inexperienced. I have to admit that reading this did start a little stress reaction (just because it was a reminder that soon I’ll need to write query letters), but then I told myself to quit goofing around on the internet and get back to writing, since I’m not even done with my MS. :)

    0
  27. says

    Thank you for another great post full of useful information. I’ll keep this list of dos and don’ts on hand for my next round of queries.

    0
  28. says

    Awesome info. Thank you.

    May I ask . . . I have read that if a bio is mandatory, and there’s nothing noteworthy, it’s okay to say something creative/humorous–a line or two. Is that really okay? Or is it poor advice? Clarifying that this is for a fiction writer. Your bio advice for non-fiction writers is clear.

    0
  29. says

    My self-published novel didn’t ‘take off’. In fact, I sold less than 200 copies. But I have had several very good reviews on amazon and goodreads. Shouldn’t I mention this?

    0
  30. Lisa says

    Great list! It is very helpful to me as a first time novelist with only small publications to her credit.

    Lisa

    0
  31. Terry White says

    I know, I know…..printing is such a waste when I can bookmark a good piece; but I’m wasteful that way when it comes to the ones I consider the best.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts—and expertise.

    0
  32. says

    Good list, and nicely written. As one of those people with very little to put in a query bio yet, it is always nice to have some ideas on what could be in there.

    My biggest question at the moment is, if I have published something fairly minor in a completely different genre, should I mention it? I have a short story published in a small-press anthology, but I am pitching picture books so not sure if it would help, or better to leave it out and keep the bio short.

    0
  33. says

    Hi Chuck,
    I’ve been guilty of a few of the don’ts, and hadn’t heard some of your “do’s.” Thank you for your helpful post. Have a blessed Memorial Day.

    0
  34. Jennifer says

    Thank you for such a clear list of dos and don’ts! I’ve wondered about what to do with the bio if there aren’t relevant credentials to list, so I appreciate hearing knowledgeable advice to simply exclude it from the query. (Though better still would be garnering some relevant creds…!)

    0
  35. says

    I’ve been told by some editors, an agent, and some published authors that selling a “debut novel” is better than trying to sell “a novel that is much better than my first one, I promise.” (or similar)

    To this end, wouldn’t it be beneficial to state that “This is my first novel.” at the end of the query letter? Or does the statement “This is my first novel.” sound more like I’m saying, “This is the first thing I’ve ever written, I’m a total noob.”?

    Because those are obviously two different things. The novel I’m finishing now will be the first novel I will publish, but it’s definitely no where near the first thing I’ve written.

    Also, in my query letter, I mention my blogging platform, as it is quite large (or was, at one point, before I shifted my writing focus to fiction), and I feel like the fact that I’ve put my writing up for public discussion and been able to take said public discussion with a grain of salt is a good thing. The fact that I’ve had thousands of public opinions (some of which have been deliberately hurtful) lobbed at me says something about my ability to withstand an editorial process, or to professionally handle myself when reviews and/or interviews eventually start rolling in.

    Am I kidding myself? Is this totally unnecessary?

    Thank you for the post.

    0
  36. says

    It’s tough for those of us coming over from the journalism world to figure out how to scare up a decent set of usable writing samples for our bio section. We’ve written thousands of words, most of them not in our own style, all of which show diligent research, accuracy, passion, and commitment.

    0
  37. Margaux says

    Thank you for taking the time to share these tips. You have answered a lot of questions that I have struggled with over the years.

    0
  38. christine selby says

    Thank you for this. I have a similar issue as some. I have a great deal of writing experience and have been published; but not as a writer of fiction. To include our not to include in the bio section?

    0
  39. says

    Thank you. This was so helpful. I’ve been procrastinating about getting my book off to an agent. I have selected the agents to send to, but I’ve been afraid to write the query and summary. I know they have to be perfect, but I was not sure what “perfect” included.
    Thank you again. Your columns are always great!

    0
  40. Paige says

    Thank you for this info. I knew some of this, but not all. It will really help in looking for an agent. Thank you again.

    0
  41. says

    Thank you for the helpful comments!

    And my favorite Arrested Development character is actually Michael. No, GOB. Or Maeby. Lindsey???

    0
  42. Sally Lewis says

    Thanks for sharing this practical, concise list of do’s and don’t with novices like me.

    0
  43. Clint Edwards says

    Chuck: I am currently querying a memoir. Often times I see posts from agents and editors who distinguish the differences between querying fiction and non-fiction (just like you did in this post). However, I have heard that if querying a memoir, the author should follow the fiction guidelines. What is your take on this?

    0
  44. says

    That part about aliens telling to write a story really made me laugh.

    But seriously, I’ve always read that agents want to know you have a website or blog as proof that you already have an established platform.

    0
  45. says

    Isn’t 7,500 or 20,00 really really high for a self-published e-book sales?

    I thought I would mention how I started my own writing group in my bio because I thought it showed motivation and ambition (which I would apply to any future published books). Is this not true if it’s not big cheese?

    Thanks for the detailed information. I will definitely put it to good use!

    0
  46. Casia Schreyer says

    Thank you, this answered a lot of questions I had. One more though – how big does the publishing company have to be before you should mention them in your letter? A lot of smaller ‘presses’ are dropping up with the digital publishing boom.

    0
  47. says

    Chuck, thanks for your post. I appreciate the reminders about brevity, and the mention it, then back away approach. Self-gushing is never pretty or appealing.

    0
  48. says

    Thanks for the advice. I’m on book 2 of what will be a series, and my plan was to emphasize that in the pitch. It may be just a semantic thing, but I guess that means I’ll have a two-part query, the quick intro and the pitch/bio, since there’s little else I have to brag on except my published nonfiction and my 40-year-long career as an editor. But thanks for setting things out so clearly.

    At one point you offered your services as a freelance editor. I have a couple of questions about that. Even though my whole professional career was as an editor of one sort or another, I am very aware that my book needs another set of eyes. But I’m not sure I want them to be yours, since your blog has a number of typos in it, not particularly confidence-building.

    So here are my questions: A) Should one judge an editor by a blog? Or, like emails, are blogs sort of exempt from that kind of scrutiny? My personal answer is they are not, and I struggle to keep errors out of my blog. But this is not something I have ever heard discussed, so. . . .

    B) What are your credentials as an editor? Your name is unfamiliar to me, but then I haven’t been looking for an editor all that long, so I’d like to know more about you.

    And C) I’d like to do some freelance editing myself. Any tips/ideas on how to go about doing that?

    Thanks again for what you’ve provided here. I think I’ll go read a few more of your blogs, to see what else I can learn.

    0
  49. says

    Chuck, great information here. I like the “short but sweet” approach because it takes a lot of pressure off those of us who don’t have a lot of credits to our names.

    0
  50. says

    Thanks for your advice. It’s crazy how much attention we put on this little paragraph – I think because it’s about us, not our book.

    0
  51. says

    Thank you so much for this in-depth look into the bio section of the query letters. Query letters are hard enough to write on your own, so I appreciate that you took the time to help us aspiring writers to not look quite so silly in our craft!

    0
  52. says

    Thanks for the direction. I have yet to write a query letter, but it’s time. My second book is now with my friendly beta readers!

    0
  53. says

    I think writing query letters can be intimidating and frightening to writers. This article provides excellent advice, and a great starting point for getting started on a query. Thanks!

    0
  54. Maria Lopez Davis says

    Thank you so much for this article! As a writer just beginning my journey it was incredibly helpful to know how to handle my lack of credentials.

    0
  55. says

    Honestly, Thanks for the tips! And humor! Sometimes, the simple things are the hardest to overcome… And seem to be the most embarrassing to ask for help. I have read article after article about the query letter, and read many successful and unsuccessful letters for reference. However, I have not seen anyone take the time to explain in detail how important or unimportant the bio component can be. Expertly done!

    0
  56. Jean says

    Before the Words in 3D conference in Edmonton (May 24/25 2013) I didn’t know that there was a ‘formula’ to approach editors and publishers. Now with Chuck’s workshop help, I have prepared great query letters!

    0
  57. says

    Thanks for the usual great advice. It’s so nice to have a resource here to turn to when I find myself puzzled or needing to know more.

    0
  58. says

    Love this: Don’t say God or aliens told you to write the story. My local crit group had a lady come who said she was “channeling the story from a dead friend” and so was unable to revise! I am querying. . .

    0
  59. says

    Very helpful! The bio part is always tricky, because I have a BA in English but not an MFA. I wrote for the student newspaper..11 years ago. So I never know what to say. Now I have a better idea of what not to do in the bio! Thank you!

    0
  60. says

    That was tremendous, Chuck. Thanks so much for the post. You’re right in that as a writer, I like the bio information the least for queries and cover letters.

    0
  61. says

    Thank you for writing it out plain and simple, what to do and what not to do. I have never written a query letter and this really helps me to start.

    0
  62. says

    Thanks for this, it was super helpful. I’m wondering about the ‘don’t mention this is your first novel’ bit though, I think I’d feel a bit dishonest if I didn’t! :)

    0
  63. Jill Proctor says

    What a wonderful post. It is indeed very helpful and I’ve already bookmarked the page. Thank you so much for a great big serving of dynamite information!

    0
  64. Elissa says

    Great list. In my first (successful) query letter, I also mentioned major venues where I’d performed excerpts from the book–like a huge regional festival. I didn’t have a lot of credits but did have an MFA and wanted to get creative.

    0
    • says

      Hi Elissa, I don’t have an MFA and didn’t complete my BA/BS, kept taking classes that helped me at work. Do you think that an MFA is essential?

      0
  65. Josh says

    Good to know its still worth mentioning my work in journalism even if I’m writing fiction. Thanks for the tips.

    0
  66. says

    Well written Chuck, I see your name around and appreciate your writing.

    Thanks for the great tips– writers need to know this valuable info.

    As a writer around for years, it is only now I’m starting to pay attention to other writers, because of Winning Writers influence over my reading their articles which impact me.

    From what I’m reading, I’m beginning to realize I’m not the only writer. I have given-up reading years ago because I didn’t want the outside to influence my thinking, so I relied on my own thoughts all these years. Now, I’m ready to be a writer with added imagination, to have my readers feel my words rather than just tell them.

    Winning Writers doesn’t know they’ve helped me to see the light. Through them, I’m a ‘Winning Writer’ waiting for my day to shine. Their short stories/poetry has helped me to understand my own work, and what I must do to improve already good work!

    I’ve always been a good writer aiming to be a ‘Winning Writer’. The day the sun smiles its warmth upon my face in association with good. The lines of unpraised struggle, the eyes of sorrow, the pain of yesterday written all over the knows protruding out like a pinnochio tale. When rarity is a gem not yet found in the creases of the forehead baring the marks of reality, the sore of circumstance.

    My day will come, the shining of intuitiveness at the finest of competitive nature!

    0
  67. says

    Driven passion–the expression of the soul, influencing the masses with good. Only good to lead the paths of righteousness–a journey worth the value life offers through good interactions. Good intentions are beneficial to those following. Perceptions created from good, good beget good.

    0
  68. Karen Quealy says

    Thanks so much for sharing these helpful ideas.I’m sure they will help someone to create a much better submission.

    0
  69. says

    Agents want to know they are working with somebody who can be professional. You don’t have to have publishing credits to be professional, you just have to show that you have learned the business (personalize the letter, know the appropriate word count for your genre, write a compelling hook, follow the do’s and don’ts listed above, etc.). In my opinion, there is no quicker way to learn the business side of writing than by attending a conference and belonging to an organization. I belong to the SCBWI (for children’s book writers and illustrators) and I feel like I’ve earned a doctorate thanks to the wealth of information members have shared. Good luck!

    0
  70. Audra Spicer says

    Hi, Chuck. Saw you at Pennwriters in May–your energy is inspiring.

    Question: I published two books under a “half” pseudonym, meaning I used my first name because its unusual, but not my last. Should I mention those novels?

    0
  71. says

    I am very glad I took the time to read this article. Being a new writer, the art of writing a query letter – especially the bio – was intimidating. Your section on what not to include was most helpful. Thanks!

    0
  72. says

    Chuck,

    I enjoy your column. This one however uses this phrase, “don’t mention the number of drafts you’ve went through.”

    Either it’s “drafts you went rhrough” or “drafts you’ve gone through.”

    Editing is always expected is another of your pieces of advise.

    :-)

    John

    0
  73. Charles K. says

    Thanks, Chuck! I’ve always appreciated your columns and found them Really Useful!

    One question about another murky area: In the query for a first novel, are prior NONFICTION writing/editing credits (e.g. academic articles or book chapters) worth mentioning?

    0
  74. says

    Thanks for this most informative article that is useful not just for writing to agents. It’s valuable for reaching out to other professionals as well – for the bookstore where you want to talk after the book is published. Or for radio interviews. I’m always at a loss as to what to say, how much.

    0
  75. Karin M Salzman says

    RE: What to Write in the “Bio” section of your Query Letter
    27 May 2013

    NO: SKIP THESE ELEMENTS IN YOUR BIO
    Don’t say how many drafts of the novel you’ve went through.

    Ouch! As a successful writer/editor for many decades, I was astounded at the glaring, albeit common, error in the above sentence. The past tense of “go” is “went” but the past perfect tense is “have gone.” Take your pick: “you’ve gone through” or “you went through.”

    0
  76. says

    Wow, I wish I’d had this helpful information when I first began the query process. Oh well, I have it now.

    Thanks so much for your advice.

    Judith Marshall, author of “Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever”, optioned for the big screen

    0
  77. Shakuntalah (Shaan) Blamires says

    Mr. Sambuchino,
    I don’t ever miss ANYTHING you write concerning fiction writing. Your articles are always VERY HELPFUL and I make them a part of my continued learning of my craft. THANK YOU! This article was particularly helpful as I am only now starting the submissions process and want to make sure I don’t come off as a newbie.
    Keep posting! Great work!

    Shaan B

    0
  78. says

    Thanks so much for this Chuck. You answered so many questions that I had. I will now feel much more confident now when I begin to query agents.

    0
  79. Carol-Lynn Rössel says

    Thanks for the idea about including published articles – even if nonfiction – in a novel query. I never would have considered this.

    0
  80. says

    I’m so glad you included information on what to do if a writer has no credits other than…say…winning first place in a local short story contest, or maybe writing book reviews for Booklist magazine, or, yep, blogging, which, in my case, is the whole case. I felt more comfortable saying nothing rather than pulling out these literary crumbs.

    Looks like you covered scenarios for every level of writer. Much appreciated!

    0
  81. Melinda Fulk says

    Thanks for some very good advice on writing a bio. I need to do one every year for a publishing company that I write for and I never like writing about myself. A lot of the above advice could really even be used for those little bios, making them easier to finish.

    0
  82. Suzanne Link says

    Good tips. I think my previously written query follows this advice fairly well, but I did go back in and pull out a few things, one of them being my age!

    0
  83. S Knight says

    Thanks so much for giving such good advice. Plan to share with my writer’s chapter.

    0
  84. Aerin says

    Ohhhhh emmm geeeee
    And all this time I’ve just been writing “Capricorn”.
    Who knew?

    0
  85. says

    Thank you so much for your insights. I’m new to the publishing world and was asking the same questions you answered. I love how helpful the writing community is no matter your status.

    0
  86. says

    MIA CULPA, a good thing I read this article! I have many of the don’t-do on my blog’s bio that I am going to correct lickety-split. Also I am thinking about promoting writers on my blog, not sure how best to do this and welcome information.

    0
  87. says

    Ps. Was also thinking about including on my bio that VIRGINS came to me as a result of an apparition that kept coming to me over several months, and that haunted me, until I started writing. That 12 years later my husband and I went to Spain in search of roots to the story and my gosh we found them; the roots that is. Although all this is true and could be a story by itself I guess, I better not say that in my bio.

    0

Trackbacks

  1. […] Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) covers the do’s and don’ts of one piece of the query in What to Write in the “Bio” Section of Your Query Letter. If this is something you’re looking for guidance on, check out this […]

    0