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View Full Version : Agents asking for 'personal info' in queries



Sunshine13
10-17-2008, 10:36 PM
Ok so prepping to submit I've noticed a few agents mention "tell us something about yourself in the query". If I have no publishing experience, no writing credentials or meaningful awards, what the heck do I say? It's obvious I love to write and I've always read if you have no experience to put in a query, say nothing at all.

If you've encountered this before, what did you do or what do you suggest I do if you haven't?

Redhedd
10-17-2008, 11:26 PM
If they say, "tell us something about yourself in the query," that means they want to know about you as a person. This is where you would submit a short bio (250 words or so) that gives a bit of info about your background, your interests, and your goals.

heyjude
10-17-2008, 11:34 PM
I usually ignore this in regular queries. A couple of times, though, I've had agents email when requesting material and specifically ask about me. I tell them what my degree was in and why that's relevant to what I write, other activities that might lend credibility, stuff like that.

scope
10-17-2008, 11:41 PM
If you have absolutely nothing relevant to say, there's nothing you can or should say. Just skip it.

WendyNYC
10-17-2008, 11:49 PM
If they use that phrase ("tell us about yourself" or something similar) I wouldn't skip it. That doesn't sound like it necessarily has to be about writing, otherwise I'd think they would say "include your writing credentials." What is the tone of your book? Can you say something kind of offbeat about yourself?

At a conference I recently attended, it was recommended that we say something personal about ourselves if we could tie it in to the book somehow. For instance, one woman wrote a novel about a character who faked her way through a series of careers. She mentioned a job she once had that she was completely unqualified for, and how she made it work. It was funny and everyone seemed to like it.But these were verbal pitches, so maybe that's different.

Still. It would seem they want to hear about you.

Redhedd
10-18-2008, 03:17 AM
Yes, they do want to hear about You, the person. They are looking at the possibility of forming a working relationship with you and want to get an idea of what kind of person you are, what you might be like to work with, and how promotable you are.

Besides, you're eventually going to need to write a bio if your book sells, so think of this as good practice!

Carmy
10-18-2008, 07:53 AM
Well, you're a member of a fantastic on-line writing group, right?

I think they may want to know what your credentials are for writing the novel, not your height, weight, hair colour or age. Do you have some experiences you share with your MC, for example? Do you live in the area where you've set the novel? If your novel is YA or MG, have your worked with children, or have children?

Just a few suggestions to get you started. I hope they help.

sanssouci
10-18-2008, 08:11 AM
Yes, they do want to hear about You, the person. They are looking at the possibility of forming a working relationship with you and want to get an idea of what kind of person you are, what you might be like to work with, and how promotable you are.

Besides, you're eventually going to need to write a bio if your book sells, so think of this as good practice!

This is so true. Think of it as applying for a job, except you're asking them to represnt your work for free until the book sells (and it might not). It's just common courtesy to introduce yourself properly.

RJK
10-18-2008, 08:10 PM
I've often wondered about this question too. When agents say they receive several hundred queries a week and if the 'hook' doesn't get them, they don't read further, why do they want you to try to squeeze in a paragraph about yourself in a one page query?

If they are interested in your book, there is plenty of time to find out whether you went to Harvard or community college, and whether you are a 20 year old coed, or a 65 year old retired backhoe operator.

On the other hand, if they ask about your writing credentials, I can see where that would interest them and may be the tipping point for asking for a partial or a full. If you have none (like me) you just ignore that question.

scope
10-18-2008, 09:48 PM
This is so true. Think of it as applying for a job, except you're asking them to represnt your work for free until the book sells (and it might not). It's just common courtesy to introduce yourself properly.

Can't agree with you here. IMO, in a limited space query letter, an agent or editor is only interested in writing credentials. Personal bio information is for later on, be it in a chat, proposal, or whatever form.

Susan Breen
10-18-2008, 10:12 PM
I think they're looking to get a little sense of your personality, so it's worth trying to get that across. I once had a student who had an obsession with shoes, and one of her characters had an obsession with shoes, and she somehow tied it in on her query letter. The agent happened to have an obsession with shoes, and I don't know what happened after that, but you get the point.

Phaeal
10-18-2008, 10:34 PM
I have a brief bio paragraph that I paste into letters to editors or agents who ask for one. Since most of my work is set in New England, I concentrate on my knowledge and love of the area, hoping that will get across some of the tone of my fictional milieu.

If they don't ask for a bio or "something about yourself," I stick to the creds alone.

Redhedd
10-19-2008, 04:00 AM
I've often wondered about this question too. When agents say they receive several hundred queries a week and if the 'hook' doesn't get them, they don't read further, why do they want you to try to squeeze in a paragraph about yourself in a one page query?

Well, I think that a request for a bio usually comes along with a request for a partial or full, and they want the one paragraph because even when dealing with partials they are still hoping to save time overall.

But in the end, it really doesn't matter why they want this info in this particular format. The best rule to follow when querying agents is to follow their guidelines. Every agent is different, which can be a real pain, yes, but that's the way the game is played. Just as every writer has a different method and style, every agent (or editor) has a system that allows him or her to get through queries quickly and effectively.

Karen Duvall
10-19-2008, 04:21 AM
It's probably not a good idea to get too personal when providing this information, and especially stay away from comments like "I've loved writing ever since grade school" or "My sister, mom, husband, etc. think I'm a fantastic writer." This is a huge turn off. You can say things like "I'm married and live in Anytown, USA, and work full time as an aerospace engineer." That's plenty on the personal end. By no means should you never send along a 250 word bio unless specifically asked for one. A little about yourself means just that. What you choose to say reveals a lot about what you might be like to work with. Do you follow directions? Do you tell a little? Or say too much? Very important.

As far as credentials, you do belong to an active writers' community, yes? AW is fairly well-known. Are there other groups you belong to? Do you have a critique group? This would indicate you're serious about your writing.

As competitive as this industry is, agents are looking for an excuse to send a rejection. Don't give them one if you can help it. They really do look at credentials and credits, and if they're trying to decide between two queries they like and one author belongs to a pro group and the other doesn't, the one without the affiliation could be the one left behind.

HeidiHole
10-21-2008, 08:02 PM
The agency wants a bio with the full ms. They don't specify a length.

I'm assuming they want something that can go on a book jacket or on an inside page. Two or three sentences of relevant information.

Would you send three or four paragraphs of relevant information to be safe?

The Lonely One
10-21-2008, 10:52 PM
A bio is (not that I'm accusing) a good opportunity to catch a writer out of their fictional element and shows another style of writing by her/him.

I would just assume every bit of writing, from your name and address down to "the end" (no, don't write that, please) represents you as a writer.

rljude
10-28-2008, 06:27 AM
I just got back from a terrific writers conference and heard several agents speak. All of them talked about how personal that the agent-author relationship is and that one of the keys to it being successful long term is that each party like and feel comfortable with the other. They all talked about wanting to know a little about the person that they signed and that they had turned down writers in the past, not because of lack of ability, but because of not feeling comfortable with them, not connecting with them.

SPMiller
10-28-2008, 08:42 PM
Although I haven't queried yet, I fully intend to ignore those instructions. My writing has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of my life.

Skye Jules
10-28-2008, 08:58 PM
I haven't queried yet either, but I would ignore them. Your query is supposed to be one page front, and frankly I don't see how you would have room to put a 250 word bio on it!

scope
10-29-2008, 12:56 AM
Agents have plenty to read without requesting written material from writers which they don't think is important or don't want to read. If a bio is requested they want it. It's not all that different than an employer in another industry asking an applicant to fill out a resume for an open position. You don't have to agree and you don't have to supply it, as some have indicated, but there's no doubt that it'll be a reflection on you and may hamper your ability to be represented.

If you have something applicable to say, the bio section of a query can't be more than a few sentences. However, when a proposal is requested the job is to take as much space as you need to sell yourself (same for a synopsis or a separate bio page).

Marian Perera
10-29-2008, 02:56 AM
The one time an agent asked me for some information about myself, I said the most interesting thing I could think of - that I was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the Middle East, studied in the States and migrated to Canada (and because of that, my fantasy novels always have people of vastly different races and cultures having to work together).