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Susan Littlefield
11-14-2011, 07:55 PM
Hi all,

Yesterday at my writers club we had a wonderful speaker who makes her living writing young adult. I have not read her stories, but I know others who praise her work. I really enjoyed her talk on her process of writing, as well as tips on writing series.

At one point in her talk, she recommended that a good line to put in your query letter is "I am uniquely qualified to write this book because...." and then state your experience. She once heard this from another well known writer (who she said is deceased now), and tried it in her own query letters. Obviously, it worked.

This sounds like a good idea for someone who might be a doctor writing medical thrillers, or a lawyer writing legal thrillers, or even a nanny writing books about nanny adventures.

But, what about some of us who have gained our knowledge through research? I mean, it would look funny for me to say, "I am uniquely qualified to write this book because I have spend countless hours researching issues regarding missing children."

Any thought on the subject of putting "I am uniquely qualified" in your query letters?

scarletpeaches
11-14-2011, 07:58 PM
I wouldn't. No-one else could write the books I do, as they're a sum of my own experiences added to my abilities, but from the outside looking in, I'm nothing special.

I think it would work in non-fiction, but in fiction it comes of as a bit "Look at me, look at me." Okay, you want an agent to look at your query, but, and this is just my thought, it sounds terribly boastful.

Shadow_Ferret
11-14-2011, 07:59 PM
I thought we were supposed to avoid adverbs. :D

And I guess it would work if you were, in fact, uniquely qualified. But I write fantasy. What's my unique qualification? The fact that I live in my own world and don't interact well with reality?

The Lonely One
11-14-2011, 08:08 PM
It works if you are.

I think I'm uniquely qualified for acquiring debt, but that's about it :)

Cyia
11-14-2011, 08:17 PM
I am uniquely qualified to write dark SF/F because...

*delete*
*block email*
*block IP*
*alert security*

happywritermom
11-14-2011, 08:26 PM
One paragraph in my query starts with "In Invisible Ink, I draw from 11 years of journalism experience ..." but I am not "uniquely qualified." Plenty of other writers out there have backgrounds in crime coverage.

For someone like author Lisa Genova, however, I think that would work well. She studied Alzheimer's for two decades before she wrote her debut, best-selling novel, Still Alice, about a woman with early onset.
(great book, by the way)

Drachen Jager
11-14-2011, 08:30 PM
I always question any author's advice on writing query letters. Authors know that they made it, they cannot really know what elements of their query letter worked and what didn't.

Trust agents for query letter advice. They have thousands to critique, not just one.

Monkey
11-14-2011, 08:35 PM
My current WIP has a fair bit of parkour in it, and the MC is a female practitioner.

I'm also a practitioner--and a woman, and a mother, each of which brings unique challenges to the art. I also do the write-ups and a lot of the official leg-work for my local team and do work for Parkour Federation. I've trained with one of the founders and I have regular contact with practitioners from around the world. I figure this makes me "uniquely qualified," and have been considering how to squeeze some of those qualifications into my query.

I don't know if using the phrase "I am uniquely qualified to write this book because..." is the way I'll go, though, especially if a lot of other authors are doing so.

quicklime
11-14-2011, 08:41 PM
I think if you ARE "uniquely qualified" you absolutely want to use it. if you aren't, it will be very apparent and cast you in a negative light.

"uniquely qualified" means you're very special in your qualifications, understanding, or background, in my mind--say you're writing a book about nuns committing suicide and the Superior trying to find a way to stem an outbreak of them in a thriller......if you were a nun, you're qualified. If you've googled nuns, or your third cousin was a nun, or you just really liked The Flying Nun, you aren't uniquely qualified.

Terie
11-14-2011, 08:54 PM
She once heard this from another well known writer (who she said is deceased now), and tried it in her own query letters. Obviously, it worked.

Huh? Does she know for a fact that this statement was, indeed, the tipping point of her query? Could it rather be that she wrote a kick-ass query for a kick-ass book and would've had the same success if she hadn't included that line?

There isn't exactly a one-to-one, causal relationship between a particular sentence in a query letter and successful results.

So, sorry, but I don't think 'including that line' = 'it worked'.

If one is indeed uniquely qualified to write about a subject, there can't be any harm in including such a line, although there are very few things in this world that only one person is actually uniquely qualified to be. ('Current Queen of England' would apply. :D)

Saying one is uniquely qualified to write about a subject when in reality, there are many people qualified to write about it might actually do more harm than good. For example, I have a friend who was in a forced marriage. She is absolutely, unequivocally qualified to write about forced marriage, but (sadly) she is not uniquely qualified to do so.

areteus
11-14-2011, 09:06 PM
I agree with those who say that you shouldn't make a claim to be uniquely qualified because chances are you are not. I'm a teacher, therefore I could argue I am uniquely qualified to write stories about teaching. However, there are literally millions of people out there who are also teaching so are they 'uniquely qualified' too? I think the issue I have with this is the superlative* 'uniquely'. I could say that my teaching experience has allowed me an insight which has been useful in writing a story about teenagers in secondary school in the UK but I would not say it was unique experience.

If there were a 'unique' story I could tell it would be of a middle class man from the north east of england who has diabetes and coeliacs and who went to university, became a scientist, got married, became a teacher etc etc etc. In other words, an autobiography... I doubt anyone would buy that. I'd fall asleep half way through it.

*I think its a superlative... I could be wrong, my 'what to call things in grammar' skill is very low, I only got the level of the skill that lets you recognise full stops and commas... I mean a word that over-emphasises a meaning such as often used in advertising.

thothguard51
11-14-2011, 09:08 PM
Susan,

Did the author explain why she feels she is uniquely qualified? If so, does her qualifications work for everyone there? If not, then does that mean others are not as qualified to write in the same genre?

I think this works more with non-fiction where you have someone writing about a particular subject in which they have a great deal of knowledge and or experience on the subject.

Not sure how I could be uniquely qualified to write Fantasy when I have never rode a dragon, conjured magic or fallen in love with an elf. Maybe I should just give up...sighhhh.

Phaeal
11-14-2011, 09:57 PM
If I were an agent, I'm afraid the "uniquely" part would read like boasting to me. And unless your qualifications arise from professional or specific personal experience, I would unlikely be impressed. For example, you've written about a journalist imbedded with the US troops in Iraq, and you were a journalist imbedded with the US troops in Iraq. That would cover both professional and specific personal experiences.

Note that even the above writer can't claim to be uniquely qualified.

AAAAND -- how did the writer in question know it was her "uniquely qualified" line that won interest? I'd bet more money on an exciting story synopsis for those whose unique qualification is not being a big celebrity of some sort.

stray
11-14-2011, 10:07 PM
My understanding of the word unique is that there is only one - so to say that you are uniquely qualified in a chosen subject means that you're the only one that can do it - which is not true, as there will always be others that are also uniquely qualified - most of the time.

It's like when some writer tells me a story is pretty unique. Grammaticaly incorrect - it's either unique or it isn't. Unique is a one off, is it not? I would be wary of using that type of language in a query.

Jamesaritchie
11-14-2011, 10:10 PM
It may not help, but it's not going to hurt, either.

Sometimes it's too easy to over-think things. It's certainly too easy to over-analyze things. If you like such a line, and think it works, think it reads well, then use it. If not, don't use it.

Little Ming
11-14-2011, 10:13 PM
I am uniquely qualified to write this piece of erotica and I've included the video tape to prove it.

NeuroFizz
11-14-2011, 10:28 PM
**peeks over the boundary of this post to see what's playing in Little Ming's post**


Personally, I don't like the proposed sentence (I'm uniquely qualified...). There is a place in the query to include writing credits and other qualifications, and I'd include my documentable qualifications there that indicate expertise in some area that gives special insight into story material. If the story description is of a medical thriller and the author indicates he/she is a medical doctor, the agent can put the two together.

scarletpeaches
11-14-2011, 10:41 PM
I am uniquely qualified to write this piece of erotica and I've included the video tape to prove it.You've been copying my submission again, haven't you?

*snerk*

Susan Littlefield
11-15-2011, 12:41 AM
Great replies. I would never put that I am uniquely qualified to write on any subject, because I think there are many others out there who write on similar subjects. Indeed, it is the sentence phrasing that bothers me, not the fact that an author really has qualifications to write a novel on a certain subject.


Huh? Does she know for a fact that this statement was, indeed, the tipping point of her query? Could it rather be that she wrote a kick-ass query for a kick-ass book and would've had the same success if she hadn't included that line?

There isn't exactly a one-to-one, causal relationship between a particular sentence in a query letter and successful results.

So, sorry, but I don't think 'including that line' = 'it worked'.

You are absolutely right. This authors query letter may have worked for other reasons.


Did the author explain why she feels she is uniquely qualified? If so, does her qualifications work for everyone there? If not, then does that mean others are not as qualified to write in the same genre?

I think this works more with non-fiction where you have someone writing about a particular subject in which they have a great deal of knowledge and or experience on the subject.

Not sure how I could be uniquely qualified to write Fantasy when I have never rode a dragon, conjured magic or fallen in love with an elf. Maybe I should just give up...sighhhh.

In fact, she did. Her stories are about horses, and she has extensive experience working with horses, including advocacy. I don't know what you mean when you ask, "Does her qualification work for everyone there?" All I know she is a successful author who makes her living from writing.

I agree this line may work better with nonfiction.

As for uniquely qualified to write fantasy....I guess that would depend upon how much time you spend in fantasyland.... :D


It may not help, but it's not going to hurt, either.

Sometimes it's too easy to over-think things. It's certainly too easy to over-analyze things. If you like such a line, and think it works, think it reads well, then use it. If not, don't use it.

Excellent point. Except, I would feel really funny about putting that type of wording in my query letter. :)

Susan Littlefield
11-15-2011, 12:45 AM
Little Ming said: I am uniquely qualified to write this piece of erotica and I've included the video tape to prove it.


Neurofizz said: **peeks over the boundary of this post to see what's playing in Little Ming's post**


Scarlett Baby said: You've been copying my submission again, haven't you?

*snerk*

:e2stooges :roll:

jennontheisland
11-15-2011, 01:01 AM
As a line in a non-fiction query only. And you'd better be the only one who knows the subject or you're pushing it with "uniquely".

The thread title seems more like a starter in the prompts forum.

The Lonely One
11-15-2011, 02:14 AM
I'm bucketfuls more comfortable with

"My qualifications for writing this novel include"

Susan Littlefield
11-15-2011, 06:06 AM
The thread title seems more like a starter in the prompts forum.

How so? It's clear it has nothing to do with writing prompts. ;)

Susan Littlefield
11-15-2011, 06:07 AM
I'm bucketfuls more comfortable with

"My qualifications for writing this novel include"

Exactly!

Rhoda Nightingale
11-15-2011, 07:37 AM
I think if you ARE "uniquely qualified" you absolutely want to use it. if you aren't, it will be very apparent and cast you in a negative light.

"uniquely qualified" means you're very special in your qualifications, understanding, or background, in my mind--say you're writing a book about nuns committing suicide and the Superior trying to find a way to stem an outbreak of them in a thriller......if you were a nun, you're qualified. If you've googled nuns, or your third cousin was a nun, or you just really liked The Flying Nun, you aren't uniquely qualified.
This.

Obviously as an unpublished, unagented writer, I don't know how "qualified" I am throw in my opinion here, but this rings the truest if all my query-writing research is to be relied upon.

The "I am uniquely qualified" thing is akin to "my previous publishing credits include," far as I'm concerned. If you have unique qualifications, then go ahead and list them. If you have been published, especially in a similar genre, then list that. Otherwise, it's better to leave the whole thing out.

Susan Littlefield
11-15-2011, 09:13 AM
Obviously as an unpublished, unagented writer, I don't know how "qualified" I am throw in my opinion here, but this rings the truest if all my query-writing research is to be relied upon.

Everybody is qualified to give their opinion, whether or not they agented and/or published. :)


The "I am uniquely qualified" thing is akin to "my previous publishing credits include," far as I'm concerned. If you have unique qualifications, then go ahead and list them. If you have been published, especially in a similar genre, then list that. Otherwise, it's better to leave the whole thing out.

I agree. Even though I have a few publications under my belt, I still am not comfortable that they are "enough," so to speak. I'm not sure I would list them.

skylark
11-15-2011, 01:01 PM
I wouldn't be comfortable saying I was "uniquely qualified" to write (or do) anything. To me, it has connotations of "my book must be good because I am so special."

shaldna
11-15-2011, 03:56 PM
Any thought on the subject of putting "I am uniquely qualified" in your query letters?


On a planet with 7 billion people no one is Uniquely qualified.

I wouldn't put it in because I think it sounds arrogant, as well as being untrue.

seun
11-15-2011, 04:14 PM
Personally, I'd stay away from the uniquely angle. Sounds a bit precious to me. In any case, I can't see it working that well in fiction. Especially if you write horror.

"I'm uniquely qualified to write this horror story because I like to come back from the dead and eat brains."

Terie
11-15-2011, 04:30 PM
On a planet with 7 billion people no one is Uniquely qualified.

Well, there are a few. 'Reigning monarch' of any country wherein one stops being the monarch only when one dies (therefore leaving only one alive at any given time) would be one. So would 'seven-time winner of the Tour de France'. :D

But there are very VERY few qualifications for which there's only one person in the whole world.

OTOH, while we've been focusing on the hubris of using the word 'uniquely', I do think that the essence of what the author to whom the OP is referring said has a lot of truth to it. If one has direct experience of something that appears in their book, they should mention that in their query.

For example, I wrote a novel about bike racing, and in my query, I mentioned that I used to race bikes at an amateur level. This indicates that I have knowledge about bikes, bike riding, bike training, and bike racing that would be relevant to the novel. I would obviously NOT include the line about being a bike racer in queries for my fantasy novels.

gothicangel
11-15-2011, 04:46 PM
I wouldn't say that I'm uniquely qualified, but when I start subbing my Roman thriller I will mention my Classical Studies degree in the query.

Not that I would be niave to think that would change the mind of a agent/reader who didn't like the concept. At the most it would probably encourage one who did like the idea, to think 'oh, she'll know what she's talking about.'

Susan Littlefield
11-15-2011, 07:42 PM
"I'm uniquely qualified to write this horror story because I like to come back from the dead and eat brains."
:ROFL:

Susan Littlefield
11-15-2011, 07:45 PM
OTOH, while we've been focusing on the hubris of using the word 'uniquely', I do think that the essence of what the author to whom the OP is referring said has a lot of truth to it. If one has direct experience of something that appears in their book, they should mention that in their query.

For example, I wrote a novel about bike racing, and in my query, I mentioned that I used to race bikes at an amateur level. This indicates that I have knowledge about bikes, bike riding, bike training, and bike racing that would be relevant to the novel. I would obviously NOT include the line about being a bike racer in queries for my fantasy novels.

Excellent point. Uniquely qualified does make it sound like I am the only one and, like you said, there are a few instances of this being true.

Susan Littlefield
11-15-2011, 07:46 PM
Shaldna and Gothic, excellent points.

Al Stevens
11-15-2011, 08:06 PM
I am uniquely qualified to write this spy assassination thriller, but if I told you my qualifications, I'd have to kill you.

JSSchley
11-15-2011, 08:11 PM
I need to go hunt for the specific posts, but several times now I've seen Janet Reid and Jessica Faust in query critiques say that such a statement helped (or even that such a statement would help). In the would help instance, it was a query where the writer basically demonstrated that her story didn't map on to what JR knew of the music industry, and JR said that if the query was full of stuff like that but at the end the author said, "I've been a touring musician for twenty years," it would make JR think that her intuitions were wrong, since she's not in the music industry.

I think this is one of those situations where, if you've truly got it, and it's truly relevant, you should flaunt it. But there's a thin line between, as was pointed out above, being a nun and once thinking about nuns. Terie's bike racing example is exactly what I'd think would be good. In my own world, for instance, I'm querying a book about a young, soon-to-be-professional pianist. It would be really nice to be able to say, "I've been on the international piano competition circuit," but all I've got in the way of real-life cred on this front is that I can play the instrument okay. So I say nothing, and let the book speak for itself.

Libbie
11-15-2011, 08:17 PM
I think if you honestly do have a platform (I wouldn't specifically say "uniquely qualified" because I think it sounds cheesy, but that's just a personal preference) you should mention it in your query. But if you have to stretch to make it look like you're "qualified" to write the book, then it's going to look like a stretch, and you'll come off looking unprofessional and/or desperate.

What that segment of a query letter is meant to do is to show the agent that you can generate sales on this particular book just by virtue of the fact that you are you. If you have an extremely popular blog, for example, with thousands of followers, then any book you write may be of interest to them, because they're already interested in you. If you are a doctor and you've written a medical thriller, then letting the press know about your medical knowledge may add a little excitement to your book's release that will jump up sales.

The first book I queried was a historical novel set in ancient Egypt. I don't have a history degree, I have never studied Egyptology or worked as an archaeologist. Trying to make it seem as if I had some kind of special qualification to write this would have made me look kind of silly, so I just listed where my short fiction had been published and called it a day.

The novel I'm working on now, which I will soon be querying, is different. It deals with atheism, and I am the co-host of a very popular radio show and podcast with a big international audience, and the show is about atheism. Our listeners will be interested in reading a novel with an atheist character, and I am in a position to tell a lot of potentially interested readers about this book. So with the next query letter I write, you can bet I'll mention that I have a platform! It's information that may convince an on-the-fence agent or editor that I'd be worth taking on, because there is the potential for big sales in my platform.

That's the kind of situation that warrants a mention of unique qualifications. If you don't have any, don't try to make it seem like you do. NOT having a platform won't make your novel NOT sell. It's just that having one might give you a small boost.

Scribe4264
11-15-2011, 09:25 PM
I would use that for non-fiction. For example, I am thinking about writing a book about a former MLB player and since I have 20 years experience as a sports writer that would probably make a publisher take note.

But as others have said, I am not so sure how I could use it for my sci-fi writing. Maybe: I have been watching and reading sci-fi for 40 years and that makes me uniquely qualified to write this book?

I don't think that will get me far, lol.

Susan Littlefield
11-16-2011, 12:17 AM
I am uniquely qualified to write this spy assassination thriller, but if I told you my qualifications, I'd have to kill you.

:poke::ROFL:

Susan Littlefield
11-16-2011, 12:23 AM
The novel I'm working on now, which I will soon be querying, is different. It deals with atheism, and I am the co-host of a very popular radio show and podcast with a big international audience, and the show is about atheism. Our listeners will be interested in reading a novel with an atheist character, and I am in a position to tell a lot of potentially interested readers about this book. So with the next query letter I write, you can bet I'll mention that I have a platform! It's information that may convince an on-the-fence agent or editor that I'd be worth taking on, because there is the potential for big sales in my platform.

That's the kind of situation that warrants a mention of unique qualifications. If you don't have any, don't try to make it seem like you do. NOT having a platform won't make your novel NOT sell. It's just that having one might give you a small boost.

Sounds interesting, and certainly worth mentioning in your query letter.

My initial question arose from my concern that putting that the term "uniquely qualified" comes across as a bit presumptuous, maybe even a bit arrogant. However, the authors/speaker meant it as a way to show your experience in the subject matter written about.

If I had some type of special or unique qualifications for my subject matter in my novel, I would include it as something like, "I have...."

Susan Littlefield
11-16-2011, 12:24 AM
I would use that for non-fiction. For example, I am thinking about writing a book about a former MLB player and since I have 20 years experience as a sports writer that would probably make a publisher take note.

I think you are right about it working better for non-fiction.


But as others have said, I am not so sure how I could use it for my sci-fi writing. Maybe: I have been watching and reading sci-fi for 40 years and that makes me uniquely qualified to write this book?

I don't think that will get me far, lol.

If you are from another planet, it might. :D

Al Stevens
11-16-2011, 02:06 AM
Each fiction genre work can benefit from the knowledge of those who do what the book's characters do. (ScarlettPeaches, for example. :) )

What might make someone more qualified than others who have experience with the activity is that they can write, too.

Having edited many books and articles written by computer programmers, I can safely say that most of them aren't qualified to write the books and articles. They know their subject; they don't know how to convey it.

Al Stevens
11-16-2011, 02:08 AM
I am uniquely qualified to write this novel about alien abductions. See this aluminum foil liner in my hat?

richcapo
11-16-2011, 02:38 AM
I'm a thirteen year Freemason (Blue, Chapter, Council, and Commandery) with a background in foreign affairs and national security issues; my novel in progress involves Freemasons, foreign affairs, and national security issues. I'm not the biggest dog on the block, but I'm still pretty well qualified to write fiction on those topics, I think.

Ruth2
11-16-2011, 03:42 AM
I'm qualified to write about a lot of things. I'm uniquely qualified to write my autobiography.

Mark G
11-16-2011, 04:32 AM
I was going to say this!


I thought we were supposed to avoid adverbs. :D

And I guess it would work if you were, in fact, uniquely qualified. But I write fantasy. What's my unique qualification? The fact that I live in my own world and don't interact well with reality?

I'd remove the adverb to avoid punishment from a critique...


I'm bucketfuls more comfortable with

"My qualifications for writing this novel include"

But does fiction even warrant something like this? Would we do well to include it with a humorous angle?

"My qualifications for writing this space fantasy include that everyone thinks I'm out of this world."

"My unique qualifications for writing this novel include dressing for the Ren Faire and talking with an accent."

Susan Littlefield
11-16-2011, 05:51 AM
I'm a thirteen year Freemason (Blue, Chapter, Council, and Commandery) with a background in foreign affairs and national security issues; my novel in progress involves Freemasons, foreign affairs, and national security issues. I'm not the biggest dog on the block, but I'm still pretty well qualified to write fiction on those topics, I think.

Rich, I would say so. Except, would you be uniquely qualified?

richcapo
11-16-2011, 07:02 AM
Rich, I would say so. Except, would you be uniquely qualified?I don't think so. There are many people with similar, and many with MUCH better, backgrounds in my area (DC-metro). But how many of them write historical revision and magical realism?

shaldna
11-16-2011, 02:27 PM
OTOH, while we've been focusing on the hubris of using the word 'uniquely', I do think that the essence of what the author to whom the OP is referring said has a lot of truth to it. If one has direct experience of something that appears in their book, they should mention that in their query.

Totally. I think that if you have experience or a background in what you are writing about, especially if that will give you a deeper insight, or a new perspective, then you should totally mention it.


I wouldn't say that I'm uniquely qualified, but when I start subbing my Roman thriller I will mention my Classical Studies degree in the query.

Not that I would be niave to think that would change the mind of a agent/reader who didn't like the concept. At the most it would probably encourage one who did like the idea, to think 'oh, she'll know what she's talking about.'


It can be weird the things that people take interest in though, especially in queries and stuff. For instance, when I was applying for my MA they were more interested in my science degree than in my literature one. When I was querying my first novel an editor I sent it to was more interested in the fact that I lived in Belfast (and was therefore clearly bombproof and potentially owned a balaclava) than about any of my experience or background that was actually relevant to the novel.

People can be weird like that sometimes.

gothicangel
11-16-2011, 04:06 PM
It can be weird the things that people take interest in though, especially in queries and stuff. For instance, when I was applying for my MA they were more interested in my science degree than in my literature one. When I was querying my first novel an editor I sent it to was more interested in the fact that I lived in Belfast (and was therefore clearly bombproof and potentially owned a balaclava) than about any of my experience or background that was actually relevant to the novel.

People can be weird like that sometimes.

:)

I'm hoping to gain some archaeolgy work experience at Vindolanda next summer. Fingers crossed that will work as one of those weird things.

muse weaver
11-17-2011, 12:38 AM
Keep in mind what a query letter is supposed to do-hook the reader-period. It's a business letter so treat it that way. Do you kid around when attempting to get new business? No... so don't in this letter.
i video critique query letters free at my site and at The Writer Magazine. I invite you to subcribe-once you do, i offer 1 free quick query critique--they're quite helpful.
Good luck.
Marla
www.MarlaMiller.com

Susan Littlefield
11-17-2011, 06:24 AM
Marla,

Welcome, but in your first post you offer your services? There is a Query Hell forum here where we critique each other's query letters. ;)

What makes you think people are kidding around? This was posted seriously and, even with the camaraderie happening in this thread, we all want to write the best query letters we can.

Mark G
11-17-2011, 09:59 PM
Marla!

Welcome to the site! We met at the LA Writer's Conference this year - and I really appreciated your feedback on my "Half Elf Prophesy" submission.

I highly recommend Marla. She gives valuable advice and will tell you what you need to hear!

My post here that talked about comedy in a query letter was just for fun on the site here; but I'm glad we got you to comment. :)