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View Full Version : "my first novel" even when it really isn't.



MsGneiss
11-13-2010, 04:18 AM
I've written two novels. The first one was agented, but never sold. Now I'm starting to query my second one. I like to end my query letter with, "XXX is my first novel." What I really mean is that I've never before published fiction, which is true. Somebody mentioned that it's deceptive of me to claim that XXX is my first novel, when in fact, I've written another novel (an obviously unsuccessful one), and that by saying that XXX is my first novel, I'm somehow misleading the agent into thinking that I'm more talented than I really am. I disagree. I think that agents really don't care what I've written before if it hasn't been published, and that I'm really not misleading anyone by saying that XXX is my first novel. It certainly isn't my intention to mislead, but writing out a long shpil about my past failures in publishing seems like a bad way to go as far as query letters are concerned.

What do you all think about this?

Corinne Duyvis
11-13-2010, 04:29 AM
I think it can go both ways. Some do interpret "first novel" as ACTUAL "first novel"; others realize that you mean in terms of what's gotten published and not.

Could it hurt if the agent misinterprets you? Probably not... but why risk it? In my opinion, it'd be best to eliminate all possible confusion and just leave it out. If you *have* published something before, you'd put it in the query letter; an absence of credits usually means, well, no credits. What do you have to gain from emphasising that?

If you do want to keep it for some reason, maybe phrase it differently, so that the agent has no way of misinterpreting. "Although I have no publishing credits to my name, blah blah blah"? You don't need to mention the other agent at all if you don't want to. If you do, it couldn't hurt - but again, be clear about it. "I was previously agented for a different work, but we parted ways amicably/due to communication issues/whatever in [month] of [year]."

Honestly, though, that's just what I'd do. I don't think this is a big deal.

Good luck, anyhow!

Kateness
11-13-2010, 04:31 AM
I don't know that it's necessary to put in that it's your first novel; some agents may misinterpret it to think that yesterday, you finished writing your first ever novel and now you're spamming it out. If you don't mention previous publishing history, then I think they'll get it.

Jamesaritchie
11-13-2010, 04:32 AM
Deceptive has nothing to do with it. Never include something that makes you look worse than you are. "My first novel" is another way of saying, "If it's bad, it's because I haven't written anything else." It's another way of saying "I'm completely inexperienced."

You say, I think that agents really don't care what I've written before if it hasn't been published True, but why would then you believe the agent wants to hear that you're querying her with the first thing you've ever written?

To shorten this, there is no reason to mention a novel that hasn't been published, and there's even less reason to say the novel you're querying is your first. For Heaven's sake, don't mention the unpublished novel, and do not say what you're querying is your first. Both are red flags.

Let the agent assume what she will. And she will assume you haven't been published, else you would have mentioned it. But also let her assume you've been writing for a long time, and aren't hitting her with your first effort.

Allow your work to stand on its own merit, be it the twentieth novel you've written, or the first. Giving the agent preconceived notions spoils this.

MsGneiss
11-13-2010, 04:32 AM
I mention the non-fiction work that I've published (in one sentence) and then, following it up with "xxx is my first novel" rounds off the paragraph really nicely. But I think you are right, and it's probably best to just leave it out, or rephrase it somehow.

CaroGirl
11-13-2010, 05:23 AM
I'd leave it out. If you don't have other novels listed as publishing credits in your query letter, the agent will assume it's your first novel.

Truth and Fiction
11-13-2010, 06:31 AM
Deceptive has nothing to do with it. Never include something that makes you look worse than you are. "My first novel" is another way of saying, "If it's bad, it's because I haven't written anything else." It's another way of saying "I'm completely inexperienced."

You say, I think that agents really don't care what I've written before if it hasn't been published True, but why would then you believe the agent wants to hear that you're querying her with the first thing you've ever written?

To shorten this, there is no reason to mention a novel that hasn't been published, and there's even less reason to say the novel you're querying is your first. For Heaven's sake, don't mention the unpublished novel, and do not say what you're querying is your first. Both are red flags.


I agree. Saying "this is my first novel" either 1) is totally unnecessary or 2) could have negative effects, not positive ones. So don't do it.

Once you get an agent and get to the point of shopping around the manuscript, then yes, it will be considered your first novel, at least as far as the industry is concerned. Most writers have a book or two (or three, or four...) that they shoved away in a drawer before making their first sale.

ChaosTitan
11-13-2010, 07:19 AM
I'd leave it out. If you don't have other novels listed as publishing credits in your query letter, the agent will assume it's your first novel.

Exactly.

The novels I queried were my second, fifth, and seventh, but none of the agents needed to know that. ;)