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newauth
06-20-2014, 12:41 AM
I have no writing credits, but I have experience with technical documentation. I worked at tech startups and we didn't have in-house documentation specialists, so I did much of the business and technical documentation (since I was good at it and enjoyed it). This comprised 25% to 33% of my work through my engineering career, but it was not my main job/responsibility.

Would this be of value, given my lack of writing credits? If yes, what's the best way to show it in the query letter?

First attempt: "business and technical documentation wizard."

Maryn
06-20-2014, 01:19 AM
I wouldn't include it unless what you're trying to market is technical-oriented non-fiction. If you're trying to seel your fiction, being really adept at business and technical documentation doesn't give you any advantage.

Maryn, just one opinion, of course

newauth
06-20-2014, 02:27 AM
Thanks. The query is for a thriller.

As a side note, I'm not interested in using it to pad by bio. I've sent out all my queries to date without it included. The question recently arose in my mind because of this successful query: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries-agent-barbara-poelle-and-a-bad-day-for-sorry

Agent's reply (excerpt):
"... but it was her technical writing experience juxtaposed against her publications in Thuglit and Pulp Pusher that flicked the light from yellow to green. Here you have someone who clearly works within the realm of proper narrative and technical execution at her day job, but is also in forums where gritty, pulpy stories are ripe with violence and sass."

My case doesn't have such a favorable juxtaposition, but it still leaves me wondering whether or not I should include my technical writing experience.

popgun62
06-20-2014, 03:34 AM
If you're writing technothrillers, and you were (or are) an engineer, I would think it would be relevant. I write supernatural thrillers, and although I don't include my technical writing background, I do include my five years as a newspaper reporter.

quicklime
06-20-2014, 06:43 AM
I'd skip it; I've written technical documents myself, as well as protocols and scientific articles. I would assume any agent that was familiar with them would, if anything, assume I wrote in a manner that was poorly suited to a novel. The formats are just very different....yes, it is writing, but not novel-length and not in the same sort of structure. The writing I did for my thesis, in setup documents, etc. would make an agent (or myself, if I bought a book written in the same manner) absolutely cringe.

Agents take folks all the time with no writing credits, I would rather impress as a skilled debut than try to claim one thing indicated I wrote well when it didn't (at least, in novel-form).

Laer Carroll
06-21-2014, 06:58 AM
I feel you should mention your experience, just one short sentence. Something on the lines of “Wrote and edited in-house articles and documentation.”

It has nothing to do with writing fiction, but it DOES say that you can complete substantial work in a timely fashion. That is a valuable skill, especially if you have a situation such as a book back from the publisher with important requested edits and a tight deadline to turn them in.

Ditto for writers with a journalistic background, and for a similar reason.

newauth
06-21-2014, 09:12 PM
Thanks all.

Aside from business and technical documentation, I realized I've done more: marketing material (both print and online), newsletters, company blog and wiki posts, crisis communication, and investor materials. In all, my writing's "audience" has been 3-10 million people. I had to do my own editing/proofing 9 times out of 10.

After careful consideration, I think this may be of value to an agent. But I need to state it in 3-8 words.

Second attempt: "have written professional documentation, marketing copy, and articles."

newauth
06-21-2014, 09:56 PM
Third attempt: "have written marketing materials, documentation, and articles."

Siri Kirpal
06-21-2014, 09:57 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

If your query is otherwise good, they might be very interested to know you've written marketing copy.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

newauth
06-21-2014, 10:11 PM
Thanks.

Fourth attempt: "have written marketing copy, technical documentation, and articles."

quicklime
06-22-2014, 07:26 AM
Third attempt: "have written marketing materials, documentation, and articles."


Again, as a guy who has lots of technical documents with his name on them, I just wouldn't do it.

Not just for you, I won't be putting them in myself. All it says is "I can hit deadlines and write stilted, overly formal prose."



Not sure how that's an asset, and have yet to hear an agent correct me on that.

Quickbread
06-22-2014, 08:11 AM
I agree with quicklime. If your query and sample pages are written strongly, you'll be proving your writing ability. I think mentioning other types of writing may only serve to emphasize what isn't there yet: a publishing track record. There are plenty of people who have never had writing-related jobs and have no publishing history but have found agents and sold books. It really doesn't matter if you've never published before. What matters is that you write something kick-ass.

newauth
06-22-2014, 08:42 AM
Thanks, both quicklime and quickbread.

To play devil's advocate, I'm going to try to illustrate what I think the following conveys:

Fifth (and final) attempt: "have written marketing copy, articles, and technical documentation."

1. Marketing copy - shows I've had experience honing my skills writing taut, engaging content.
2. Articles - shows I've had experience summarizing factual things in a somewhat journalistic sense.
3. Technical documentation - shows I've had experience with longer 25- to 200-page works.
4. All three - shows I've done these professionally and, despite my engineering background, have a long-term proclivity for writing, even though it's non-fiction (vs. I just decided to write something/anything professionally for the first time with this novel).

I'm sure it may make some agents eye-roll, but maybe the right question to ask is: if I have space to include it in a 250- to 300-word query, would any of the above hurt my chances? If yes, I'd want to leave it out. But if the verdict is overwhelmingly neutral, then I'd err on the side of caution and leave it in, especially if I have enough space AND lack other noteworthy writing credits.

Old Hack
06-22-2014, 02:07 PM
I'd focus on selling your book rather than selling yourself.

RightHoJeeves
06-22-2014, 05:15 PM
1. Marketing copy - shows I've had experience honing my skills writing taut, engaging content.


Your actual query should show that you can write taught, engaging content (because the query itself should be taught and engaging).

If I were you I wouldn't mention it. I'm not an agent or anything, but I have read plenty of times that you shouldn't include bio stuff unless it is about you selling fiction (or working in a field related to your non-fiction work).

Melville
06-22-2014, 05:50 PM
Fifth (and final) attempt: "have written marketing copy, articles, and technical documentation."


It doesn't relay what you think it does; it prompts a big "So What?" response. You're wasting words on something that's so vague as to be utterly irrelevant. About a million would-be novelists have written marketing copy, articles and technical documentation -- that doesn't set you apart at all.

And it doesn't mean you can write fiction.

Now if your book was a cyber-thriller and you wrote technical documentation for the NSA on cyber-terrorism, that would be relevant.

You're not applying for a job -- you're trying to convince an agent to read your novel, so basically, at this juncture, it's your novel that's applying for a "job". Focus on it.

You can always find one agent who says otherwise; great, then query that agent. Most agents are interested in finding a well-written novel that they can sell.

LJD
06-22-2014, 06:12 PM
It doesn't relay what you think it does; it prompts a big "So What?" response. You're wasting words on something that's so vague as to be utterly irrelevant. About a million would-be novelists have written marketing copy, articles and technical documentation -- that doesn't set you apart at all.

Yeah...thing is, lots of people write as part of their jobs. My father, my boyfriend, and I all have engineering degrees. As part of our jobs, we have written scientific papers and posters, large reports, technical documentation and manuals, etc. We've edited other people's writing. IMHO, "have written marketing copy, articles, and technical documentation" doesn't set you apart, so I don't think it's worth including.


I'm sure it may make some agents eye-roll, but maybe the right question to ask is: if I have space to include it in a 250- to 300-word query, would any of the above hurt my chances? If yes, I'd want to leave it out. But if the verdict is overwhelmingly neutral, then I'd err on the side of caution and leave it in, especially if I have enough space AND lack other noteworthy writing credits.

If you have a really strong query and opening pages, I don't see how it would matter either way. But personally, I would err on the side of not making agents roll their eyes.

ap123
06-22-2014, 06:46 PM
If it isn't asked for I'd leave it out, but some agents are very clear about wanting a bio, whether or not it includes publishing credits.

I think it's good if you can have something like this prepared for those agents who want it, and it does show you understand timelines and the necessity of edits--different than for fiction, but something, nonetheless.

newauth
06-22-2014, 10:30 PM
Thanks, all. I've decided to leave it out.

Although I could continue to play devil's advocate, I realized I had some super-interesting non-writing things that were worth mentioning. When I got through adding those, it pushed me closer to 300 words (vs. 250 before I started messing with my bio). When I ranked the things in my bio, I realized "have written marketing copy, articles, and technical documentation" was the least interesting thing I had. At that point, I had to cut it.

For others, if your bio is sparse, I'd say: 20% keep it, 80% chuck it, maybe on a case-by-case basis (based on the agent's age, experience, etc.). After reading many agents' preferences, I'm a proponent of a non-padded bio that showcases your (1) writing experience, (2) relevant life experience, and (3) any huge successes you've had in your life or career. Whatever you can include in a 250-word query (300 words max), you should, I think. If you have tons of little things (but nothing spectacular), rank them (or have others rank them) and pick top 4-5 (breadth in all three categories, I've come to realize, is less important than depth). You may still need to pare down, but have a starting point for a bio instead of simply throwing in the towel ON YOURSELF.

I'm no longer a proponent of an empty bio as I believe you're selling yourself short. If you don't have anything in 1. or 2. to mention, I personally think finding something in 3. has value. Why? Agents are people. If your book is a small-town romance but you've sailed around the world or won "top orthodontist" award for the past 10 years straight, is it worthy of mention? Many of you will say, "hell, no." Me, I say, "if you have space in 250 to 300 words, go for it." It shows you have dedication to what you do, whether personally or professionally. Of course, your query and writing should be your main focus, but AFTER you've written the best query and book you can write, show the agent you're a person. Also... use your discretion as to what's worthy of mention. Having won a national pie-eating contest for 10 years straight may not be as interesting (to anyone).

RightHoJeeves
06-23-2014, 02:01 AM
Yes but a query isn't supposed to be a CV, it's supposed to entice the agent to read your novel.

To play devil's advocate on the other end, say you include your top orthodontist award in your bio. Your agent might look at that and say "that is completely unnecessary, this writer does not know what to cut out when editing. pass."

Unless the experience is directly relevant, leave it out.

JulianneQJohnson
06-23-2014, 02:40 AM
Related question: When submission guidelines specifically want a paragraph of author's bio regardless of writing credits, what do you include? If fiction credits are scarce or non-existent, other types of writing induce eye rolling, and non-relevant facts such as my award for rabid wombat wrangling are irrelevant, what do you put in a bio?

quicklime
06-23-2014, 05:56 PM
Thanks, both quicklime and quickbread.

To play devil's advocate, I'm going to try to illustrate what I think the following conveys:

Fifth (and final) attempt: "have written marketing copy, articles, and technical documentation."

1. Marketing copy - shows I've had experience honing my skills writing taut, engaging content. Noooo. "Redder is Better" was a catchy phrase for one of our screening assays, straight out of marketing.....but doesn't say anything. "How do they cram all that graham?" is another bit of marketeering. They pique a certain amount of interest, and even in a novel a sentence like that could have some utility, but it shows you can write marketing copy. You aren't SELLING marketing copy, and there is no reason to conclude catchphrases translate into novel ability
2. Articles - shows I've had experience summarizing factual things in a somewhat journalistic sense. you really, really don't want to listen to me, and that's fine; I am an internet nobody. But go find "The First Five Pages." It is a book on writing, BY AN AGENT. Not all agents feel the same, I am sure, but he mentions a strong bias against journalists because the writing style really IS different. So....assuming you can write well, all this line does is (possibly) call that into question, without really proving you can write well.
3. Technical documentation - shows I've had experience with longer 25- to 200-page works. nothing like a novel. NOTHING like a novel.
4. All three - shows I've done these professionally and, despite my engineering background, have a long-term proclivity for writing, even though it's non-fiction (vs. I just decided to write something/anything professionally for the first time with this novel). truly, all three together I would count against you more heavily than for. Seriously. I am not an agent, but I've been here for like 5 years, and the folks who are the most hung up on this bit have often been the ones who were, in fact, most likely to write like the engineers and scientists they were. Worse, they were also the ones least likely to listen, convinced they were still, even here in a new medium, the smartest kids in the class. So, like Lukeman (the guy who wrote "The First Five Pages") I have my own biases. Do they match those of agents? Surely not all, but I suspect at least some of them. Meaning your "credit line" will, I suspect, turn a few away, or appear to be a red flag for some. Conversely, I really do not believe it says the things you want it to say, to ANY agent. So it can hurt (a little) and I fail to see any gain....

I'm sure it may make some agents eye-roll, but maybe the right question to ask is: if I have space to include it in a 250- to 300-word query, would any of the above hurt my chances? If yes, I'd want to leave it out.
But if the verdict is overwhelmingly neutral, then I'd err on the side of caution and leave it in, especially if I have enough space AND lack other noteworthy writing credits.


re: the last paragraph,

1. If you're writing a query over 250 words I'd already be looking to cut.....and this would be one of the first things. Conversely, if I READ a 300-word query, found a few things I might tighten, and THEN saw your credit line you so badly wanted to add, my first thought would be "no wonder he can't fucking tighten this down." Does that sound as though your line is helping you?

2. I don't think that's an err on the side of caution, it is an err on the side of justifying what you want to do. There is an important difference.

3. Debut authors get signed every day. They really do, without credits. And I doubt any of them were because they edited, wrote tech manuals, etc.

quicklime
06-23-2014, 06:01 PM
I'm no longer a proponent of an empty bio as I believe you're selling yourself short. If you don't have anything in 1. or 2. to mention, I personally think finding something in 3. has value. Why? Agents are people. If your book is a small-town romance but you've sailed around the world or won "top orthodontist" award for the past 10 years straight, is it worthy of mention? Many of you will say, "hell, no." Me, I say, "if you have space in 250 to 300 words, go for it." It shows you have dedication to what you do, whether personally or professionally. Of course, your query and writing should be your main focus, but AFTER you've written the best query and book you can write, show the agent you're a person. Also... use your discretion as to what's worthy of mention. Having won a national pie-eating contest for 10 years straight may not be as interesting (to anyone).


many of us will say that (hell no) because they've seen AGENTS say it. Not sure how much more you'd want than that...

Others will because they recognize a query as a business letter, and learned in business class that when writing a bank for a restaurant loan, a paragraph on orthodonture or your love of kittens is detrimental because you shift focus and waste the investor's time.

Agents are people, and dedication is nice, but if you're pitching, unless they're actively asking for extra info, I think there is a lot to be said for "just the facts, ma'am".....particularly given how many thousands of pitches most agents have already seen extolling the writer's ability to knit, sail, eat pies, etc. when all they want is a novel.

A non-relevant line about personal interests is just a speed-bump between a hopefully tight, exciting query, and the pages you meant for the query to send them to.....why put a hurdle between the 2?

Putputt
06-23-2014, 06:38 PM
Related question: When submission guidelines specifically want a paragraph of author's bio regardless of writing credits, what do you include? If fiction credits are scarce or non-existent, other types of writing induce eye rolling, and non-relevant facts such as my award for rabid wombat wrangling are irrelevant, what do you put in a bio?

I opted for something humorous that showed a bit of my personality. This was what I wrote in mine:

"I am a Californian stuck in Oxford, England, where I spend my days getting snubbed due to my uncouth American accent. I have a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Oxford University, although I have yet to find a way of saying that without sounding totally obnoxious.

Thank you for your time and consideration."

One of the agents who asked for the full said my query made her laugh, so it could work for you...(or against). I figured it's a good way of seeing if the agent's personality might suit yours.

As for the OP, if the agent asks for a bio, I personally prefer seeing a bit of humor, so I'd go for the documentation wizard thing. But if you say "I won an orthodontist award"...I dunno, it sounds a bit dry, which leads to the whole, "So what?" response. I'd try to say it in a humorous way (because it shows your personality, see), or just leave it out altogether.

JulianneQJohnson
06-23-2014, 07:03 PM
Putputt- Excellent example. I've been doing the same sort of thing, though mine is not nearly so amusing.

thedark
06-23-2014, 07:35 PM
Related question: When submission guidelines specifically want a paragraph of author's bio regardless of writing credits, what do you include? If fiction credits are scarce or non-existent, other types of writing induce eye rolling, and non-relevant facts such as my award for rabid wombat wrangling are irrelevant, what do you put in a bio?

Putputt shared a humorous example, and I have a more serious one, matching the tone of my captivity Pysch Thriller. The query is yet a draft, but this is the bio paragraph I'm leaning towards sharing, if it gets past QLH:

--

THE DARK is a 85,000 word Psychological Thriller. As a teen, I was imprisoned for four years in an abandoned rural restaurant. At midnight every night, as the screams from the next room grew, I listened to a hidden radio and created Kay’s story and those of her vigilante sisters. My guards never broke me, and I escaped into daylight at sixteen. THE DARK draws from my experience.

--

My bio falls under the "relevant experience" section, and that experience truly adds to the intensity of the psych thriller. Do you have any experience that ties to your novel, however tangentially, that's worth mentioning?

newauth
06-24-2014, 09:43 AM
Thanks, quicklime, for your comments in red.

I'm going to press a bit, more for the sake of argument vs. belaboring the issue. I started off leaving my bio completely empty, but I now feel that's a mistake. Allow me to present my case (in the hopes it helps others).

I'll start with a great recent response from a great agent:

What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Day job, where they're from, whether they have a writing degree (which does not influence my decision at all, by the way, but you should still include it), something about them that might directly relate to the book (i.e. "Like my character, I'm the daughter of a small town preacher...").
Source: Query Questions with Sarah LaPolla (http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.ca/2014/06/query-questions-with-sarah-lapolla.html)

I also recently read (somewhere) that a few agents (mostly seasoned ones) skip to the bio section first--some hugely-successful agents even say not to query unless you have at least a short story credit (!). If you're looking to land a super-experienced agent, I think you should have something in your bio. Why? Because even if your query rocks, a super-experienced agent [who already has tons of clients] may still pass on it if you have absolutely nothing in your bio. [Obviously, having something totally unnecessary may work against you, too.]

Now allow me to use the "top orthodontist for 10 years straight" example (disclaimer: I'm not an orthodontist). Since many of us write fiction, let's pretend that our subject, Levi Chomsky, has written a small-town romance. He has no publication credits (only business- and research-related writing experience, like documentation, marketing materials, seminar abstracts, research papers, etc.), has never lived in or visited a small town, and he just won his 10th straight top orthodontist award in the greater Chicago area (it was close this year). Adding to his woe is that he was a science geek in school and has no idea why he wrote a small-town romance.

Here are some choices Mr. Chomsky, Levi has:

1. I am a member of the Illinois Writers' group.

... or ...

2. I am a member of the Illinois Writers' group. I have been awarded Top Orthodontist for 10 years straight.

... or ...

3. I am a member of the Illinois Writers' group. I have been awarded Top Orthodontist for 10 years straight. I have written for business and research.

*I didn't optimize these sentences, so please don't get hung up on wording.

Obviously, there are more variations he could have (such as Putputt's great humor suggestion), but let's suppose Mr. Chomsky, Levi really has nothing to connect him back to the story and his rocking query currently stands at 240 words. Is it the opinion of this court that Mr. C, L should stick with 1.? If yes, maybe the right question to ask is: in trying to sell a story, does its author not matter at all?

Again, to play devil's advocate, 2. tells me so much about the author: he went to graduate school, has written academically, knows a lot about teeth, possibly runs his own practice (a highly regarded one), is driven, is (maybe) smart, makes a lot of money, is dedicated, cares about awards, is at least in his mid-thirties, values his time, works directly with customers (and probably has a pleasing demeanor because of it), works with his hands, works with children, has a stable day job, etc. None of these may be relevant to the book, but it brings the author to life. If this were a 300-word query, I may balk at it. But, at 240 words, shouldn't Mr. C, L attempt to come alive on the page while highlighting something he possibly has a right to be proud of? I believe yes.

(As for 3., I'm not going to argue for it. If the second sentence had been "I have sailed around the world," I might be inclined to play devil's advocate on it, but we'll leave that for another day.)

Old Hack
06-24-2014, 10:37 AM
I still think you should focus on selling your book in your query, not yourself.

newauth
06-24-2014, 11:08 AM
I still think you should focus on selling your book in your query, not yourself.

When all agents strip the bio stipulation entirely, I'll buy your view. Until that happens, I believe you should focus on selling your book first, second, and third, and then yourself--don't forget yourself, is my point.

Terie
06-24-2014, 11:13 AM
I still think you should focus on selling your book in your query, not yourself.

This.

NewAuth, you've spent more time writing posts in this thread about this question, which boils down to a single sentence in a query letter, than I've cummulatively spent writing bios in the almost 40 decades since I sent my very first query letter.

Let me help. In my job, I'm a technical writer. Writing isn't part of my job, it is my job. It is my choice, therefore, to include a sentence about this in my bio:


I am a senior-level technical writer at a software company.

If you're a tech writer and want to include that sentence, there you go; you may copy mine. If you're not a tech writer or decide not to mention it, don't include this sentence.

My reasoning for including this 11-word sentence is this: It indicates that I have experience handling large projects, that I'm accustomed to being edited, and that someone thinks my facility with written language is good enough to pay me buckets of money for it. But I don't belabour the point with more than a mere 11 words. Because I'm a senior-level technical writer, I understand the power of conciseness; I also am good at audience analyisis, which tells me that this fact about myself isn't worth more than 11 words in a query letter to an agent or publisher; and finally, I have excellent time-management skills, which makes it clear that this fact isn't worth spending loads of time writing about. :)

Putputt
06-24-2014, 01:05 PM
--

THE DARK is a 85,000 word Psychological Thriller. As a teen, I was imprisoned for four years in an abandoned rural restaurant. At midnight every night, as the screams from the next room grew, I listened to a hidden radio and created Kay’s story and those of her vigilante sisters. My guards never broke me, and I escaped into daylight at sixteen. THE DARK draws from my experience.

--

Keeping in mind I'm not an agent...holy crap, I want to read the book based on your bio alone. :D




What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Day job, where they're from, whether they have a writing degree (which does not influence my decision at all, by the way, but you should still include it), something about them that might directly relate to the book (i.e. "Like my character, I'm the daughter of a small town preacher...").
Source: Query Questions with Sarah LaPolla (http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.ca/2014/06/query-questions-with-sarah-lapolla.html)

I think this is where researching the agents you're going to query pays off. If you were to query Sarah LaPolla, by all means, put all those things she asks for in your bio.



I also recently read (somewhere) that a few agents (mostly seasoned ones) skip to the bio section first--some hugely-successful agents even say not to query unless you have at least a short story credit (!).

Hmm, really? I find this a bit hard to swallow, if only because the short story market is such a small one. Stephen King famously gave the advice to start writing short stories first, but that was years and years ago. This might be seriously outdated advice. I would take it with a pinch of salt.



If you're looking to land a super-experienced agent, I think you should have something in your bio. Why? Because even if your query rocks, a super-experienced agent [who already has tons of clients] may still pass on it if you have absolutely nothing in your bio. [Obviously, having something totally unnecessary may work against you, too.]

Now allow me to use the "top orthodontist for 10 years straight" example (disclaimer: I'm not an orthodontist). Since many of us write fiction, let's pretend that our subject, Levi Chomsky, has written a small-town romance. He has no publication credits (only business- and research-related writing experience, like documentation, marketing materials, seminar abstracts, research papers, etc.), has never lived in or visited a small town, and he just won his 10th straight top orthodontist award in the greater Chicago area (it was close this year). Adding to his woe is that he was a science geek in school and has no idea why he wrote a small-town romance.

Here are some choices Mr. Chomsky, Levi has:

1. I am a member of the Illinois Writers' group.

... or ...

2. I am a member of the Illinois Writers' group. I have been awarded Top Orthodontist for 10 years straight.

... or ...

3. I am a member of the Illinois Writers' group. I have been awarded Top Orthodontist for 10 years straight. I have written for business and research.

*I didn't optimize these sentences, so please don't get hung up on wording.

Obviously, there are more variations he could have (such as Putputt's great humor suggestion), but let's suppose Mr. Chomsky, Levi really has nothing to connect him back to the story and his rocking query currently stands at 240 words. Is it the opinion of this court that Mr. C, L should stick with 1.? If yes, maybe the right question to ask is: in trying to sell a story, does its author not matter at all?

Again, to play devil's advocate, 2. tells me so much about the author: he went to graduate school, has written academically, knows a lot about teeth, possibly runs his own practice (a highly regarded one), is driven, is (maybe) smart, makes a lot of money, is dedicated, cares about awards, is at least in his mid-thirties, values his time, works directly with customers (and probably has a pleasing demeanor because of it), works with his hands, works with children, has a stable day job, etc. None of these may be relevant to the book, but it brings the author to life. If this were a 300-word query, I may balk at it. But, at 240 words, shouldn't Mr. C, L attempt to come alive on the page while highlighting something he possibly has a right to be proud of? I believe yes.

(As for 3., I'm not going to argue for it. If the second sentence had been "I have sailed around the world," I might be inclined to play devil's advocate on it, but we'll leave that for another day.)

Ehh...I think this is all subjective opinion. Agents are human. Like everyone else, their opinions will vary. Although I had success with my bio, I also had rejections. Same thing with the queries without my bio. There is no way of telling whether my bio ended up working for or against me. Do I think it made a significant difference? Not really. :) If my query wasn't interesting, nothing I say in my bio would have made a difference.

Basically...

If my query was hook-your-eyeballs awesome, I doubt the agent's going to go, "Oh my god, I need to read this stor--wait, wtf? NO BIO?? Well FUCK YOU, bio-less author!! REJECT."

Similarly, if my query was all awesome, I doubt the agent's going to go, "Ohhh this query is even more amazinger than double rainbows! But--what is this?? A really boring bio?? GAH! REJECT, ASSHOLE."

If my query was burn-your-eyeballs boring, no agent is going to go, "Zzz--oh, am I at the end of this query yet? Thank god. Ohhhh but look at this bio. Oh my. Ten Orthodontist awards?? CALL THIS HIPPO WITH AN OFFER NAOW."

Old Hack
06-24-2014, 01:08 PM
I still think you should focus on selling your book in your query, not yourself.When all agents strip the bio stipulation entirely, I'll buy your view. Until that happens, I believe you should focus on selling your book first, second, and third, and then yourself--don't forget yourself, is my point.

I've commissioned a lot of books in the three decades I've worked in publishing. I've never, ever commissioned one because the author wrote a great bio for herself. I have always bought them because the books looked great.

ap123
06-24-2014, 02:24 PM
I think this is where researching the agents you're going to query pays off.


If my query was hook-your-eyeballs awesome, I doubt the agent's going to go, "Oh my god, I need to read this stor--wait, wtf? NO BIO?? Well FUCK YOU, bio-less author!! REJECT."



I recently had two agents specifically request a bio when they requested a full--I had skipped the bio section in the query, because no writing credits.

Some agents really want to see a bio. As I said upthread, I now have a brief and hopefully humorous couple of sentences prepared for those who do.

Putputt
06-24-2014, 02:46 PM
I recently had two agents specifically request a bio when they requested a full--I had skipped the bio section in the query, because no writing credits.

Some agents really want to see a bio. As I said upthread, I now have a brief and hopefully humorous couple of sentences prepared for those who do.

Right. If the agent really wants a bio and you happened to leave it out, it's not a make or break thing. They'd just ask for it when they request the full.

And congrats on the full requests! Wheee!

DoNoKharms
06-24-2014, 09:14 PM
If my query was hook-your-eyeballs awesome, I doubt the agent's going to go, "Oh my god, I need to read this stor--wait, wtf? NO BIO?? Well FUCK YOU, bio-less author!! REJECT."

Similarly, if my query was all awesome, I doubt the agent's going to go, "Ohhh this query is even more amazinger than double rainbows! But--what is this?? A really boring bio?? GAH! REJECT, ASSHOLE."

If my query was burn-your-eyeballs boring, no agent is going to go, "Zzz--oh, am I at the end of this query yet? Thank god. Ohhhh but look at this bio. Oh my. Ten Orthodontist awards?? CALL THIS HIPPO WITH AN OFFER NAOW."

This should be rubber-stamped on every thread about bios, personalization, or any other element of the query that is not the query itself.

If an agent thinks the story described in a query sounds promising, they're going to request more. If they don't, they'll reject. That covers 99.5% of all query interactions. Everything else is stressing about that .5%, which is so small and unpredictable that it really doesn't matter.

mpack
06-24-2014, 10:52 PM
I also recently read (somewhere) that a few agents (mostly seasoned ones) skip to the bio section first--some hugely-successful agents even say not to query unless you have at least a short story credit (!).

In a case where this was true, a bio listing business writing won't substitute for what they're looking for as experience. Either you have short story pub credits or you don't. You've sold to a relevant fiction market or you haven't. You won't convince an agent with less-than-relevant experience.

cornflake
06-24-2014, 11:06 PM
In a case where this was true, a bio listing business writing won't substitute for what they're looking for as experience. Either you have short story pub credits or you don't. You've sold to a relevant fiction market or you haven't. You won't convince an agent with less-than-relevant experience.

This.

I mean a particular agent may want to see a bio, but if you don't have relevant credits, I'd just go with 'lives X, works as Y,' type of two-sentence thing reflecting your general voice.

Stuff like being a member of a local writing group is just meaningless and, to me, says newbie more than no bio does.

newauth
06-26-2014, 05:38 AM
The reason I'm adding more to this thread is because, when I first came here, I was led to believe the author doesn't matter. I focused entirely on my story and writing and left my bio empty.

But after learning that agents are people, I realized the query is a marketing document--a pithy, language-prioritizing one, but a marketing document nonetheless. It first hit me when a seasoned agent said in an interview that he skips to the bio first. "But I don't have a bio," I cried; no one heard me, because I didn't exist, even to myself. Later, after finding many agents asking to know a bit about the author, it hit me again: agents are people. They prioritize their reading and requests based on everything you present: the story, the writing, AND the author.

My first query was 201 words, no bio. It got full requests in minutes from two reputable agencies. I then queried a seasoned agent I was most interested in working with and got a reject. I doubt that not having a bio cost me my dream agent, but I'll never know...

My point? At 201 words, I had space, and I should've had a bio. I'm not advocating you forcibly make space, but if you have space, SELL YOURSELF, even if it's unrelated to writing. I've spent 65% time bringing out my story, 30% time perfecting the wording, and 5% on my bio. Yet the 67 words of bio I now have add a HUGE dimension to my query. None of the things helped me write my book, but 4 of 5 of them could be deemed tangentially related. And I'll probably trim after getting feedback on relevancy.

Putputt
06-26-2014, 03:05 PM
The reason I'm adding more to this thread is because, when I first came here, I was led to believe the author doesn't matter. I focused entirely on my story and writing and left my bio empty.

Eek. Of course the author matters. Haven't you read about agents Googling authors they're thinking of repping? This is why I didn't let my crazy leak all over the internet until after I signed. :D



But after learning that agents are people, I realized the query is a marketing document--a pithy, language-prioritizing one, but a marketing document nonetheless. It first hit me when a seasoned agent said in an interview that he skips to the bio first. "But I don't have a bio," I cried; no one heard me, because I didn't exist, even to myself.

Oh dear. Did you really have an existential crisis because of this?? :(

Look, just do your research.

If an agent wants bios to be included, include it.

If an agent says, "Bios that are not directly relevant are the devil's asshole!", leave it out.

If the agent does not specify, do whatever makes YOU feel most comfortable. It's your query. I was comfortable not putting in a bio in most cases, but if it's keeping you up and making you question your own existence, put it in, dood. Unless it's a cumbersome length and includes crazypants shit like "I spend my days hunting badgers and turning them into hand puppets and then I put on a badger puppet show for myself, hur hur", I doubt it would make a difference either way.

Kallithrix
06-26-2014, 04:00 PM
Eek. Of course the author matters. Haven't you read about agents Googling authors they're thinking of repping? This is why I didn't let my crazy leak all over the internet until after I signed. :D

[snip] "I spend my days hunting badgers and turning them into hand puppets and then I put on a badger puppet show for myself, hur hur"

Yanno hippo, I think you should maybe have leaked a tiny bit of this crazy beforehand, just to let your agent know what they were in for *feels sorry for hippo's agentface*

Putputt
06-27-2014, 01:12 AM
Yanno hippo, I think you should maybe have leaked a tiny bit of this crazy beforehand, just to let your agent know what they were in for *feels sorry for hippo's agentface*

*turns to look at badger puppet*

That Kalli person's mean, huh?

Yuh, badger says you are. We're both glaring at you, just so you know.