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View Full Version : So...this shouldn't go in a query letter...right?



JuliaH
12-10-2011, 08:28 AM
I'm about 99% convinced I'm not going to mention this in my query letter, but that 1% is nagging at me.

My second cousin was a super famous writer. This has no place in my query letter, correct?

After all, I never even knew him, he wrote in a different genre, it'll probably sound like name dropping, and being related to someone famous doesn't mean my writing's any good.

At the same time, I keep wondering that if the agent is a fan of my cousin, that maybe it'll prompt them to give my pages a shot. And there are a lot of people that go nuts over his stuff.

I guess I'm just looking for confirmation if I'm doing the right thing by leaving it out. Thoughts?

kellion92
12-10-2011, 08:45 AM
Unless you can get your second cousin to refer you, probably not important. But from your context, it sounds like he's dead, and if he's really super famous, it is a marketing hook, so maybe mention if you can work it in properly.

Was that helpful? No, I didn't think so.

Drachen Jager
12-10-2011, 08:54 AM
If they ask for a bio, include it in the bio. I wouldn't include it in the query.

That said, like so many other petty details about queries, it is unlikely to make or break you either way. Your query will succeed or fail on its own merits.

Susan Littlefield
12-10-2011, 09:37 AM
I would not include it all all, because it really does not matter under any circumstance. Your query and book will stand on their own.

leahzero
12-10-2011, 09:52 AM
Actually, I'm going to go against the grain here. If he was a truly SUPER famous writer that the agent will at least have heard of, it could be an interesting bit of flavor to add to your (brief) bio.

Considering that an agent is reading dozens if not hundreds of queries a day, anything that makes yours stand out without making a negative impression is potentially a Good Thing™. I can't see how casually and off-handedly referring to a famous writer relative would be construed as obnoxious name-dropping.

E.g.: "JuliaH is a (job title) by day, loves (interesting hobby), and is the second cousin of (famous author), though she (insert bit of self-deprecating humor)."

P.S. I'm curious. Can you rep me your cousin's name? :D

sknipper
12-10-2011, 06:15 PM
I wouldn't mention it. Let your writing stand on it's own.

Terie
12-10-2011, 06:28 PM
Most big-name agents represent big-name authors. They will absolutely NOT be impressed by meaningless name-dropping, and might even be turned off by it. A second cousin whom you've never met is no more meaningful to your query than any other big-name author you've never met.

BethS
12-10-2011, 07:51 PM
Listen to the 1%. The agent doesn't care if your cousin can/could write. The agent only cares if you can write.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-11-2011, 07:52 PM
If you have the same surname and it is a famous surname, the question WILL come up, so it's fine to mention it in a self-deprecating and cute way in the bio -- as in:

"Amy Vonnegut has an MFA in literature from Cold State University and is the author of numerous poems and short stories published in the New Yorker. A CERTAIN SLICE OF LIFE is her debut novel. And yes, she's Kurt's second cousin, but she's pretty sure he won't be able to blurb her book."

or

"Jenny Hemingway spends her days as a professional topless dolphin wrangler in Key West, which has given her plenty of material for the sexy aquatic murder mysteries she pens by night. She's not so sure that Cousin Ernest would approve."

If not don't bother.

Tromboli
12-11-2011, 08:44 PM
Listen to the 1%. The agent doesn't care if your cousin can/could write. The agent only cares if you can write.


Btw, the 1% was that she should put it in the query. So your saying she should listen to the 99%. Right? :D

writersMAMA
12-11-2011, 10:46 PM
I would if:
1. you're pitching to your cousin's lit agency, mention his name
2. if you write a query 'creatively' enough, you can slip it--
Example:
Your last graf:
Include pertinent writing credits plus something like this:
I like to think my story telling comes naturally. My cousin, Blank, was/is a huge influence....

It's so tough out here to get attention-when you have this kind of cache, I'd use it.
Hope this helps.
Marla
www.MarlaMiller.com (http://www.MarlaMiller.com)
Subscribe for ONE FREE quick query critique

writersMAMA
12-11-2011, 10:50 PM
Just saying:
If people think agents are only interested in talent, they haven't hung around this industry long enough----
It's who you know as much as anything else---otherwise, we wouldn't have SCADS of mediocre to poor reading books out here....
Marla Miller
www.MarlaMiller.com

headwax
12-12-2011, 12:58 AM
Everyone knows that being a good writer is 99 percent genetic, 1 percent hard work. :)

Just kidding.

Fiction writers are in the business of telling lies.

You can always work in the 'fact' that your first love of writing came when your relative sat you down one afternoon and told you their three most important secrets of writing success...

Who will know?

:)

jaksen
12-12-2011, 04:32 AM
I'd listen to the agents in this thread and take their advice.

Terie
12-12-2011, 10:37 AM
Just saying:
If people think agents are only interested in talent, they haven't hung around this industry long enough----

You might want to scroll back up to post #9 and read what an actual agent said.


It's who you know as much as anything else---

You might want to scroll back up to post #1 and read where the OP said she never actually knew her famous second cousin.

The 'who you know' thing doesn't mean name-dropping of people you don't know; the 'who you know' thing is about how someone you actually know can help you make connections with people they actually know. Like when a big-name author friend of mine recommended me to her agent. That's a 'who you know' situation. Having a blood relative who's now dead and whom you didn't know isn't.

Old Hack
12-12-2011, 11:25 AM
If people think agents are only interested in talent, they haven't hung around this industry long enough

Is thirty years of "hanging around this industry" enough? Because I've worked almost thirty years in publishing, and the agents I know are all on the lookout for talent, first and foremost.


You might want to scroll back up to post #9 and read what an actual agent said.

Excellent idea. I'll quote that now, just so everyone's clear.


If you have the same surname and it is a famous surname, the question WILL come up, so it's fine to mention it in a self-deprecating and cute way in the bio -- as in:

"Amy Vonnegut has an MFA in literature from Cold State University and is the author of numerous poems and short stories published in the New Yorker. A CERTAIN SLICE OF LIFE is her debut novel. And yes, she's Kurt's second cousin, but she's pretty sure he won't be able to blurb her book."

or

"Jenny Hemingway spends her days as a professional topless dolphin wrangler in Key West, which has given her plenty of material for the sexy aquatic murder mysteries she pens by night. She's not so sure that Cousin Ernest would approve."

If not don't bother.

shaldna
12-12-2011, 03:10 PM
I'd listen to the agents in this thread and take their advice.

Yes. This +1



The 'who you know' thing doesn't mean name-dropping of people you don't know; the 'who you know' thing is about how someone you actually know can help you make connections with people they actually know. Like when a big-name author friend of mine recommended me to her agent. That's a 'who you know' situation. Having a blood relative who's now dead and whom you didn't know isn't.

This is my take on it too.

Sadly though, sometimes 'who you know' can net a mediocre writer a deal that they woulnd't have gotten otherwise.

Jamesaritchie
12-12-2011, 08:10 PM
Just saying:
If people think agents are only interested in talent, they haven't hung around this industry long enough----
It's who you know as much as anything else---otherwise, we wouldn't have SCADS of mediocre to poor reading books out here....
Marla Miller
www.MarlaMiller.com (http://www.MarlaMiller.com)

Who you know won't get you two inches. You may think the books out there are poor reading, but if so, you've never been within a mile of a slush pile, and you have vastly different taste in reading that the public at large.

Agents and editors take the best they can get, but they can't take what no one submits. If you want "better" books out there, it's simple. . .write a better book. If you can do this, you'll soon be rich and famous, and it won't be because of who you know.

If you can't do it, you won't get published, even if you know every famous writer, every editor, every agent, and if the Pope regularly visits you for Sunday dinner.

Who you know doesn't even make sense. All you have to do is spend a few minutes looking at how all the famous writers out there got published. Darned few of them knew anyone at all in the industry, or anyone famous in any way, when they started selling novels.

They simply had the ability to write books a lot of people wanted to read.

Toothpaste
12-12-2011, 10:12 PM
I'd make a list of all the authors I know who without any kind of connection got an agent (and subsequent book deal). I'd be top of that list. But see, making such a list would be so time consuming as practically every author I know would be on it (and for the record, I know a lot of authors) that I just can't afford to spend the time.

Susan Littlefield
12-13-2011, 01:14 AM
Just saying:
If people think agents are only interested in talent, they haven't hung around this industry long enough----
It's who you know as much as anything else---otherwise, we wouldn't have SCADS of mediocre to poor reading books out here....
Marla Miller
www.MarlaMiller.com

Marla,

I hope this post is tongue in cheek and that you don't really mean it. ;)

If what you say were true, than anybody could get published by dropping the names of people they know. I could send a horrible query letter to an agent but mention that I know some well-known authors (which is true), as well as so many great authors here at AW (it doesn't matter that we have not actually met, but that I interact with them often), and said agent will be impressed and immediately pick up my book.

There may be poorly written books out there, but they are what people want to read. Otherwise, they would not sell.

priceless1
12-13-2011, 03:22 AM
Just saying:
If people think agents are only interested in talent, they haven't hung around this industry long enough----
It's who you know as much as anything else---otherwise, we wouldn't have SCADS of mediocre to poor reading books out here....
Marla Miller
www.MarlaMiller.com (http://www.MarlaMiller.com)
Marla, with respect, I couldn't disagree more. I work with many agents, and I can attest that the ONLY thing they're looking for is talent - as much as I am. I've had plenty "names" query me who couldn't write their way out of a paper bag, and I had no choice but to reject them.

Who you know *may* get you read, but it most certainly will not get you a contract, and I think it's harsh to suggest otherwise.

JuliaH
12-13-2011, 04:20 AM
Thanks for the advice everyone! I think I won't mention my cousin in my query.

Just to be clear, I absolutely did not want to imply that having a famous dead relative is necessary for getting a book deal. I've read too many encouraging stories (especially here on AW) about writers getting deals with no connections or previous publications to believe that.

I mostly just posted this to make myself feel more confident about leaving it out, and now I do! Thanks again!

efultz
12-14-2011, 07:06 PM
Not that I had any doubt, but now I especially won't mention my relation to Johann Wyss. Unless, of course, I start using my mother's maiden name...

Julia - I have had the same thoughts about standing out to agents. To QLH I go!

DeadlyAccurate
12-14-2011, 07:16 PM
I'd make a list of all the authors I know who without any kind of connection got an agent (and subsequent book deal). I'd be top of that list. But see, making such a list would be so time consuming as practically every author I know would be on it (and for the record, I know a lot of authors) that I just can't afford to spend the time.

Same here. Hell, my Twitter feed alone would probably give me a list of 50 to start.

quicklime
12-14-2011, 07:54 PM
I'm about 99% convinced I'm not going to mention this in my query letter, but that 1% is nagging at me.

My second cousin was a super famous writer. This has no place in my query letter, correct?

After all, I never even knew him, he wrote in a different genre, it'll probably sound like name dropping, and being related to someone famous doesn't mean my writing's any good.

At the same time, I keep wondering that if the agent is a fan of my cousin, that maybe it'll prompt them to give my pages a shot. And there are a lot of people that go nuts over his stuff.

I guess I'm just looking for confirmation if I'm doing the right thing by leaving it out. Thoughts?



ask yourself 2 questions:

1. what could it possibly help?

2. What could it hurt?

For #1, i see nothing. For #2, I see it marking you as new, desperate, and perhaps a bit dishonest. The net would seem pretty strongly against it then--he didn't write, proof, etc., so all you stand to do it look like someone desperately trying to ride coattails.

AnthonyJones
12-17-2011, 09:24 AM
If your cousin can refer you as somebody said, then yes. But if not, then I would think an agent would ignore that because they would probably be more interested in the information about your book, and the information on you.

Just my opinion. If you did put it in there, it probably wouldn't make a difference.

kaitie
12-17-2011, 09:45 AM
Am I the only one who is insanely curious about who the cousin was?

AnthonyJones
12-17-2011, 09:50 AM
Am I the only one who is insanely curious about who the cousin was?

haha. I wondered this too.

JuliaH
12-18-2011, 07:13 AM
haha. I wondered this too.

Maybe it sounds odd, but I feel weird posting it on a public forum. Hope nobody minds too much!

Efultz, good to know I wasn't the only one in the situation. Good luck with your query!

Bron
12-19-2011, 01:22 AM
Am I the only one who is insanely curious about who the cousin was?

No.

But I understand why Julia doesn't want to reveal it!