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Mellanah
04-30-2014, 07:43 AM
There are a few agents I'm wanting to query, but one question has popped up several times that I'm struggling with: "Why are you the one to write this book?"

I write Fantasy, in this case about elves. It would be one thing if I was, say, a former lawyer writing a legal thriller. In the case of Fantasy, though, I'm not sure what the agent is looking for. I've always had a fascination with elves, but I've heard that such a statement is too general to answer the question.

Any suggestions? Am I just over thinking this?

katiemac
04-30-2014, 08:06 AM
Is this something you are seeing on agent websites as a specific question to answer?

Generally speaking you only need to answer questions if the answers are relevant like, as you say, you have aligning experience. Wow them with a great query and I'd say this is one question to which you can forgo an answer.

Chris P
04-30-2014, 08:09 AM
I've only seen the "why are you the one to write this book?" with non-fiction. I've never seen any agent ask for it for fiction, and I can't imagine any agent is expecting only real-life elf sociologists to write about life in the elven world.

Becca C.
04-30-2014, 09:23 AM
I think if you had experience really relevant to what you're writing about, even in fiction, it would be worth it to mention, like your lawyer example. But I doubt an agent would expect you to have real life experience with elves -- and they'd probably think you're crazy if you tried to say you did :P

I would just wow them with a great query, like katiemac said. Forget that question.

Jo Zebedee
04-30-2014, 11:01 AM
My agent asked this question and in responding to it my query became more passionate than it had been before. So, I suppose - what was it about the book that made you passionate about writing it? Given that it'll have consumed part of your life for xyz time. What is it in your book resonated with you so much that you wanted to do that? The response doesn't always have to be that you're the leading Uk expert on elf-like ear formations. ;) :)

Mellanah
04-30-2014, 05:22 PM
Thanks, everyone. I also thought this was something optional to include only if relevant, so I've been surprised to see it pop up a couple of times. I guess I'll just leave it off and see how it goes.

Niiicola
04-30-2014, 05:23 PM
I can't imagine any agent is expecting only real-life elf sociologists to write about life in the elven world.
*tucks elf sociology Ph.D. diploma back in pocket and wanders off muttering*

mommygoth
04-30-2014, 05:27 PM
There are a few agents I'm wanting to query, but one question has popped up several times that I'm struggling with: "Why are you the one to write this book?"

I write Fantasy, in this case about elves. It would be one thing if I was, say, a former lawyer writing a legal thriller. In the case of Fantasy, though, I'm not sure what the agent is looking for. I've always had a fascination with elves, but I've heard that such a statement is too general to answer the question.

Any suggestions? Am I just over thinking this?

Did you start reading fantasy fiction as a child? Did reading about the elves in LOTR or some other books make you put on fake pointy ears and role play? Is it a genre you've read your whole life? I think any of those things could speak to why you should be the one to write this book.

ap123
04-30-2014, 05:35 PM
I have seen this question on several agent websites and interviews.

Personally, if I don't have something fabulously specific (your example of a lawyer writing a thriller is a good one), I don't waste space answering. If a bio is insisted upon, I give a very brief one sentence blip that lets them know I don't have credentials *without spelling it out.* They'll notice what isn't listed.

Honestly, I don't recommend writing how you always loved to read, loved fantasy, etc. You've got 250 words for your query letter. 250 words to pitch your manuscript and stand out. My .02 is not to waste 75 of those words telling the agent about something that doesn't make them say, "I must see more of THIS story." :)

kenpochick
04-30-2014, 05:43 PM
I wouldn't talk about it at all. In non-fiction it's crucial to establish your credentials, but it's fantasy. You write it because you like it.

Mellanah
05-01-2014, 09:53 PM
There is one thing I've thought about adding, but I'm not sure if it would help or hurt. I'm a pagan, and there is a lot of belief about non-humans in pagan culture. It's what got me started thinking about what might happen if the elves were real. My MC is a half-blood leaving Earth to find her elven father, and there is a lot in the book about the problems caused by half-bloods. My experiences as a pagan really shape a lot. But...I'm not sure if not being Christian would be a turn off for agents. I don't want to disqualify myself because of my religion.

Becca C.
05-01-2014, 10:17 PM
There is one thing I've thought about adding, but I'm not sure if it would help or hurt. I'm a pagan, and there is a lot of belief about non-humans in pagan culture. It's what got me started thinking about what might happen if the elves were real. My MC is a half-blood leaving Earth to find her elven father, and there is a lot in the book about the problems caused by half-bloods. My experiences as a pagan really shape a lot. But...I'm not sure if not being Christian would be a turn off for agents. I don't want to disqualify myself because of my religion.

I wouldn't mention it. It's not likely to get you rejected, as (I would hope) most agents aren't so prejudiced, but it's not really relevant. A Christian writing a book based in angel mythology or what-have-you probably wouldn't mention their religious affiliation unless it was a Christian book. If yours is a secular book, I would leave religion out of it, regardless of whether you were Pagan, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, or anything else.

Also, as a whole, I don't think most agents are Christian, as you seem to be concerned about when you say "I'm not sure if not being Christian would be a turn-off for agents."

aus10phile
05-01-2014, 11:16 PM
I've seen that question occasionally, too, but I don't have any compelling answer to it, so I leave it off. I'm getting requests just fine without it. I do personalize the query when I can, but even my non-personalized ones are getting requests as well, so I think it's more about the hook and the sample pages than anything else.

thedark
05-01-2014, 11:46 PM
I agree with all of the above posters.

If you have lack a compelling and specific reason to share, share none at all. Focus on showing what's compelling about your writing.

Or at least, that's what I imagine Janet Reid would say should she visit this thread.

werewillf
05-02-2014, 07:13 AM
I think being Pagan could be worth mentioning if you think it gives your story a unique perspective.

Another way to look at the question could be: What makes this book different than other books in the genre? Maybe this isn't something you directly answer in your query letter, but keep in mind to help you focus on making a strong pitch. Good luck! :)

Quickbread
05-02-2014, 05:55 PM
I would recommend leaving your spiritual beliefs out of the query, even if they influenced the material -- unless you have extensive real-life experience with elves and half-bloods. At the end of the day, your story is fiction and it has to be strong enough to stand on its own. I'd save your influences and beliefs for the agent call if they ask you what inspired you to write the novel and if you feel comfortable sharing at that point. It's not relevant for your query. Let your story and sample pages take center stage.

mayqueen
05-02-2014, 06:43 PM
Why have I been wasting my life studying medical sociology when I could have specialized in elf sociology? Guh. *goes off to reevaluate all her life choices*

I agree with what's been said about only including highly specific and relevant information. There's a thread here in Ask the Agent by someone with a PhD in anthropology writing about an archeologist. That I would consider relevant.

I did have an agent ask me at the full request stage why I chose to write the book I did and why I was the person to write it. That's when you could bring up how your religion has influenced your work. But I wouldn't bring it up in the query.

davidj
05-02-2014, 07:32 PM
Maybe they want that question so the query could be more personalized to them not as a simultaneous query.

-David

Mellanah
05-02-2014, 08:32 PM
Thanks, everyone. It does seem safest to just leave it out at this point. I would like to know where I could get that elf sociology degree, though. :D

Mellanah
05-02-2014, 08:33 PM
Also, as a whole, I don't think most agents are Christian, as you seem to be concerned about when you say "I'm not sure if not being Christian would be a turn-off for agents."

That's a good point. I live in the Conservative Christian Bible Belt, so I guess I'm in the habit of assuming everyone is Christian.

AHunter3
05-03-2014, 01:30 AM
"Because so far I haven't actually succeeded in becoming someone else long enough to be someone else writing the damn thing, and when I wait for someone else to do it of their own accord, that doesn't work any better than waiting for them to come wash my dishes and vaccuum my floor"

JJ Litke
05-03-2014, 05:16 AM
Short of a elf sociology Ph.D. (which would be pretty freaking cool), there's other credentials that could possibly be relevant. If someone had a degree in mythological studies, or some expert knowledge of ancient druidic rituals that they drew on for the book, those would also be worth noting. But otherwise, I agree with the advice that if there's nothing so relevant, it's best to leave it off. Love of reading or elves isn't specific or unique enough to mention.

Wilde_at_heart
05-03-2014, 05:55 AM
There are a few agents I'm wanting to query, but one question has popped up several times that I'm struggling with: "Why are you the one to write this book?"

I write Fantasy, in this case about elves. It would be one thing if I was, say, a former lawyer writing a legal thriller. In the case of Fantasy, though, I'm not sure what the agent is looking for. I've always had a fascination with elves, but I've heard that such a statement is too general to answer the question.

Any suggestions? Am I just over thinking this?

Okay, but why elves and not unicorns or dwarves or fairies?