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View Full Version : Is it a bad idea to lie in your query letter?



CryingKatie
10-14-2015, 05:26 AM
I have nothing interesting to write in my query bio. Hypothetically, if I'm writing a novel about a cult, would it be a bad idea to say that I was once in a cult?

Viridian
10-14-2015, 05:34 AM
.... Yes.

Lying to people is generally not a good thing, unless you have good reason.

Lying to a potential business partner in order to get a leg up over the competition is incredibly unethical. And when (when) you get caught, your business partner will drop you like a hot potato.

If you don't have anything interesting to say in your bio, don't write a bio.

Sage
10-14-2015, 05:35 AM
The agent-author relationship requires trust. Why would you want to destroy that trust right off the bat?

poetinahat
10-14-2015, 05:38 AM
Come on - you know the answer to that.

It's a waste of everyone's time, and I would say an abuse of the community goodwill, to keep asking these questions. It's tantamount to trolling.

Suggestion: Look through the forums to see if someone's already asked.

JetFueledCar
10-14-2015, 05:38 AM
Never ever ever ever EVER lie to an agent you want to rep you.

Aggy B.
10-14-2015, 05:43 AM
If you have nothing to say in a bio, then don't write one.

Do not lie about anything that would have a bearing on the book. Like saying you were in a cult when you haven't been.

If you are writing under a pseudonym it is all right to use vague facts to avoid identifying yourself. (I.e. "Aggy B lives where the only kind of tea is sweet tea" instead of "Aggy B lives in Georgia".) But you should never make something up that makes you seem like an expert (or someone who has insight on something) that you are not.

As Viridian said, you are embarking on a business relationship. Don't start by lying to a potential partner.

CryingKatie
10-14-2015, 05:44 AM
Come on - you know the answer to that.

It's a waste of everyone's time, and I would say an abuse of the community goodwill, to keep asking these questions. It's tantamount to trolling.

Suggestion: Look through the forums to see if someone's already asked.


How am I trolling? I asked a question I need to know the answer to.

Viridian
10-14-2015, 05:54 AM
How am I trolling? I asked a question I need to know the answer to.
They didn't say you were trolling. They said this is tantamount to trolling.

You have fifty-eight posts and thirty-two of them are new threads you created to ask for help.

Viridian
10-14-2015, 05:55 AM
How would you like it if an agent lied to you to get your business?

JetFueledCar
10-14-2015, 05:55 AM
Katie, getting information piecemeal like this isn't going to do you a lot of good in the long run. Go read Learn Writing With Uncle Jim. Read How To Write A Synopsis and How To Write A Query Letter. You'll find most of your answers in those threads.

Aggy B.
10-14-2015, 05:59 AM
How am I trolling? I asked a question I need to know the answer to.

You are asking questions that have either been asked before (and a simple search would turn up) or have pretty obvious answers.

(I.e. Yes, changing a few words in someone elses story is plagiarism. Yes, lying in a query letter is bad.)

Read the stickies. I know it takes time, but there's a wealth of information there that will much more effectively answer your questions.

Brightdreamer
10-14-2015, 06:17 AM
Katie, getting information piecemeal like this isn't going to do you a lot of good in the long run. Go read Learn Writing With Uncle Jim. Read How To Write A Synopsis and How To Write A Query Letter. You'll find most of your answers in those threads.

+1

If this is a query letter for the story you posted opening lines for in the SYW section... I think you're putting the cart before the horse. Polish the story until it gleams, then consider queries and subbing. Just that little bit has tense issues and other problems that will need serious work. Read the stuff JetFueledCar suggested. Hit Amazon, the bookstore, or your library for more books on writing, if those don't click with you. These resources will help you - but only if you actually read them.


You are asking questions that have either been asked before (and a simple search would turn up) or have pretty obvious answers.

(I.e. Yes, changing a few words in someone elses story is plagiarism. Yes, lying in a query letter is bad.)

Read the stickies. I know it takes time, but there's a wealth of information there that will much more effectively answer your questions.

+1 again.

There's a quote - I can't remember the source - that goes roughly "Some people learn the tricks of the trade and think they know the trade." You're asking questions that appear* to be looking for tricks and shortcuts, but these things won't actually make you a better or a more successful writer. Only writing, and learning to write, and writing more, and learning more, will ever do that. And these things take time. It's a tall mountain. There are trails, but no escalators. The only way up is the way everyone else is going up - putting one foot in front of the other. It takes as long as it takes... but it'll take longer if you never start.

* - This may not be what you're actually doing, but it does kinda look that way from the outside, when you're starting threads asking if you can lie about your bio to boost your chances with an agent, and wondering if you can just copy someone else's story and tweak a few words. Those are shortcuts. Bad shortcuts. They may look like they lead to the top of the mountain without all those pesky switchbacks and steep bits everyone else is slogging through, but they actually route you straight off a cliff and into a deep, deep chasm... one that you may never climb out of, if you get a reputation as a liar. 'Cause agents talk to each other, and word gets around...

Helix
10-14-2015, 06:22 AM
I have nothing interesting to write in my query bio. Hypothetically, if I'm writing a novel about a cult, would it be a bad idea to say that I was once in a cult?


Would you be able to cope with the ignominy of being exposed as a fraud?

Roxxsmom
10-14-2015, 06:25 AM
Lying is a bad idea here because it's morally wrong, first of all. And this isn't just a white lie intended to save someone's feelings or a mild embellishment of the truth either. It's fabricating something that's not a part of your personal history in any sense of the word, and you're doing it for personal gain.

And on a more pragmatic level, these kinds of lies have a tendency to come back and bite people on the ass. Suppose that bit of information is what makes an agent who is on the fence about your ms request pages, and he/she loves the book, reps it, and it sells to a big publisher and becomes reasonably popular. Lots of what ifs here, but just suppose.

Do you think the truth wouldn't come out? Do you think it wouldn't hurt you (and possibly many of your loved ones too) if it did?

It just ain't worth it.

And Katie, why do you keep asking these kinds of questions? Are you really that unsure about what constitutes ethics in writing? Are you really that unsure about what good writing is (re some of your other questions) or about what works in a story (if so, you need to read more stories)? It's starting to feel like you're collecting data in an attempt to pull of some sort of literary scam or something.

Why?

Are you just making conversation or asking hypothetical questions in an attempt to start an interesting conversation about writing, what's popular, ethics, and what authors might or might not do for fame and success? That's fine, but if so, just say so and frame your questions that way, rather than presenting yourself as the kind of person who would do such unethical (and foolish) things?


How am I trolling? I asked a question I need to know the answer to.

Why do you need to know the answer to these questions. Do you actually have a partially plagiarized novel finished that you're shopping right now? Are you writing a query letter, and you're seriously considering lying about your relevant life history?

And are you really so unsure of the answers to these kinds of ethical questions that you have to turn to an online community in order to learn that you shouldn't copy other people's work with tweaks in the wording or falsify your personal history to a prospective business partner? Or are you conducting some strange psychological experiment? Or are you writing a paper about ethics in publishing and instead of going to actual academic sources, you're randomly polling members of a writer's group?

Perks
10-14-2015, 06:27 AM
I feel like I'm recovering from a head injury in this thread.

poetinahat
10-14-2015, 07:05 AM
How am I trolling? I asked a question I need to know the answer to.
I don't believe you. The answer is painfully obvious. You keep starting threads on the pretext of needing an answer. Yet you seldom enter any discussion. I don't think the answers mean anything to you; I suspect you just want people coming to your threads.

It's worn thin. Be a part of the community, not just a pest.

wittyblather
10-14-2015, 07:37 AM
I'm not religious, but if your question about morality violates one of the Ten Commandments, it's probably not acceptable practice.

ElaineA
10-14-2015, 07:40 AM
I feel like I'm recovering from a head injury in this thread.

That's good. So recovery is possible. I think I'm still in the depths of post-concussion syndrome.

VeryBigBeard
10-14-2015, 07:40 AM
I get the same feeling as poetinahat but I'll engage here anyway just in case.

When you get an agent, or you interview for a job, you NEVER lie. Lots of people do, and it ends badly. Say someone lies on a resume, and gets the job anyway. What do you think happens then? They can't do what's needed, and life is hell either learning by the seat of your pants or getting fired. Loads of people do this, and I don't know why. I fired a guy a month ago for doing this unintentionally: we asked him if he knew a certain skill, he said he did (our mistake was not testing him better), and ten weeks later he's got no work done and it's apparent he needs way more help than we can provide. Sucks for everyone involved. There's a fine line between selling yourself and your abilities/book, and over-embellishing. Know that line, because it's important. Just like plagiarism: I do worry that you seem to keep considering these things--develop that warning bell that tells you this stuff just smells wrong. You need to have one because the lack of that ethical compass will get you into trouble when evaluating offers that may be fraught with scams

Lying is an odd thing. There are people who can do it very, very well. It's high-risk, high-reward. In short, not an ideal for a novice writer, of any quality. You do not want to have the navigate that minefield with really no proven success.

mccardey
10-14-2015, 11:34 AM
This is the best subject header we've ever had and it's not even P&CE. This is trolling as she should be done. I love it.

:ROFL:

Made my day. Totally.

Ravioli
10-14-2015, 01:27 PM
This is the best subject header we've ever had and it's not even P&CE. This is trolling as she should be done. I love it.

:ROFL:

Made my day. Totally.
My personal fave was "Afraid I'll be murdered by government if I publish this".

Me, I should lie in my query letter, but I'm a ginormous ego-tripper and love to brag about my subject expertise and how I got it. No matter what that subject is.

Perks
10-14-2015, 03:28 PM
I'm going to start a thread - "Can I cram AWers back onto the turnip truck or will it make them resentful?"

Filigree
10-14-2015, 03:49 PM
Okay, at risk of drawing the mods' ire, I'm weighing in one more time, CryingKatie. I've accepted that you're probably young, so all this stuff is new to you. And I remember what that was like back in the pre-Internet days when finding it out was a whole lot harder.

But...

Don't lie and don't cheat. You will get caught, and you won't have learned anything for your trouble. If you are worried that your life is so boring that your bio needs padding...stop. Agents don't care about the bio, just the writing. Most people are more interesting than they'd give themselves credit for. Go become an interesting person (in a good, safe, socially responsible way, please.)

In the interest of preserving my sanity, I'm no longer looking at your posts.

BenPanced
10-14-2015, 04:09 PM
Yeah, it's PERFECT FINE to lie about your literary aspirations! Just ask Clifford Irving how well that worked out for him! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Hughes#Memoir_hoax) And Konrad Kujau is a bit of an expert on it, as well! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_Diaries)

NateSean
10-14-2015, 06:07 PM
I was in a cult once for nearly two years. They made us wear a certain outfit every single day, and that outfit had to be maintained and worn in a precise way every single day, or I could be penalized. They made us work for long hours, and if we didn't recruit new members to our cause every single day, we were forced to stand in a circle and face the shame of the elders. Sometimes the simple act of going to the bathroom was considered to be a special treat, and we didn't dare ask for anything so simple as a meal break... oh wait, that wasn't a cult. I just described my last job.

What was the question again?

LittlePinto
10-14-2015, 06:27 PM
Yeah, it's PERFECT FINE to lie about your literary aspirations! Just ask Clifford Irving how well that worked out for him! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Hughes#Memoir_hoax) And Konrad Kujau is a bit of an expert on it, as well! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_Diaries)

How has anyone not mentioned James Frey (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/celebrity/million-little-lies) yet?

Marian Perera
10-14-2015, 06:37 PM
I have nothing interesting to write in my query bio. Hypothetically, if I'm writing a novel about a cult, would it be a bad idea to say that I was once in a cult?

To make it more authentic, you might want to give the cult a name. May I suggest "The Movementarians"?

Myrealana
10-14-2015, 06:45 PM
Katie, I've said it before, but apparently, it bears repeating.

You need to stop asking general questions and write the book. I would lay real money on the likelihood you don't actually have a completed book about a cult. So far, you've questioned about a YA Ghosthunter book, a 9/11 conspiracy book, a middle grade novel, women's fiction and probably others I've missed.

You are fishing around for... I don't know what, but let me tell you this, as someone who languished for years learning how to write, but not actually writing: You're doing it wrong.

These questions are never going to make you a better writer, and they're not making you a better part of this community. Participate in writing threads, sure, but bottom line: WRITE. Put a story on paper before you worry for a moment about how you are going to query it, or what agents represent it, or even what genre it is. Put the story on paper. Don't waste years asking questions - good or bad - about the writing and publication process. There is time for that when you finish something.

WRITE.

Dennis E. Taylor
10-14-2015, 06:48 PM
And just to get back to the original question-- I had nothing to put in a bio. I don't think it's possible to have a more uninteresting bio than me. But I got repped. In the end, it's about the work. Write a good story, and they will come.

Jennifer_Laughran
10-14-2015, 06:50 PM
The thing is not only is it unethical and plain dumb on the most basic kindergarten level --

If you actually were to get a publishing contract, it would have clauses in it regarding warranty/liability. What do THOSE mean, you ask? Why, they mean that you are confirming that everything the publisher knows about you/your work is actually true, that none of your work is plagiarized, and that, in short, you are not a LIAR.

If you sign that, and you are actually proven to be A LIAR (which you would be) - you can/will get the everliving crap sued out of you, and your publisher will be quite happy to leave you twisting in the wind.

Good luck!

MandyHubbard
10-14-2015, 07:11 PM
I was in a cult once for nearly two years. They made us wear a certain outfit every single day, and that outfit had to be maintained and worn in a precise way every single day, or I could be penalized. They made us work for long hours, and if we didn't recruit new members to our cause every single day, we were forced to stand in a circle and face the shame of the elders. Sometimes the simple act of going to the bathroom was considered to be a special treat, and we didn't dare ask for anything so simple as a meal break... oh wait, that wasn't a cult. I just described my last job.

What was the question again?

The funny thing is, an author could totally use that in a bio. "While I've never joined a cult, I did spend six months working at Hot Topic, and that's pretty much the same thing."

The_Ink_Goddess
10-14-2015, 07:12 PM
Everything about this thread makes me feel like I've wandered into a parallel dimension, and been hit on the head by some large falling object. Simultaneously.

Perks
10-14-2015, 07:16 PM
Everything about this thread makes me feel like I've wandered into a parallel dimension, and been hit on the head by some large falling object. Simultaneously.

It was the pallid bust of Pallas above the chamber door. In this dimension, the raven's been rocking back and forth on it until it jiggled loose.

EMaree
10-14-2015, 07:19 PM
Between this and the "can I plagiarize (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?311995-Is-this-considered-plagiarism)" topic, either CryingKatie is fishing for reactions likes Roxxsmom suggested, or she's far younger than the minimum forum registration age.

ElaineA
10-14-2015, 07:21 PM
Oh. I thought it was just my head hitting my desk repeatedly. I'm glad to know the concussion wasn't my fault.

Sheryl Nantus
10-14-2015, 07:25 PM
Are we being trolled?

buz
10-14-2015, 07:50 PM
Yeah Elaine! Stop trolling! You're such a Trollface McTrollingsauce fr srs

ElaineA
10-14-2015, 07:53 PM
*bashes bridge with stout oaken club*

buz
10-14-2015, 07:56 PM
Oh Elaine, pulchritudinous trollthing,
you know how to whet my fallopian sizzling

brainstorm77
10-14-2015, 07:58 PM
Put yourself in the agents position. How would you feel if a potential client lied to you?

KTC
10-14-2015, 07:58 PM
I cult. Therefore, I agent.

Introversion
10-14-2015, 08:09 PM
I have nothing interesting to write in my query bio. Hypothetically, if I'm writing a novel about a cult, would it be a bad idea to say that I was once in a cult?

Why lie about being in a cult, when you could claim to've authored one?

An infamous one, now banned in Singapore where you birthed it, squalling and squamous, onto the trash-strewn crusty concrete of a nameless back-alley, where it quickly skittered away into the sewers, those warm, moist, dark warrens below the city, where it feasted upon poxy rats and slugs the size of bananas (the red kind that fills a room with exquisite perfume, not the ubiquitous stumbling workhorse Cavendish) until it was prepared, ready to burst forth and multiply like slime-mold in the mind-duff of the young and foolish who are attracted like curious magpies or maybe clever jackdaws to the shiny and new and larger iPhones with 3D Touch screens.

Or, maybe don't lie. It's easier.

Sage
10-14-2015, 08:13 PM
Just another thought. There are at least two agents who have read this thread, possibly more under aliases or not responding. They may not know who you are by your user name, but they may choose to look into your post history, which talks about several projects you're working on or considering. If your query falls onto their desk, what do you think their response will be?

The primary reason not to do this is that it's wrong. But the secondary reason not to do it is that you've already proven that you're not someone who could pull it off, even in the short term.

mayqueen
10-14-2015, 08:21 PM
I guess I don't understand what the point of the lie would be either? (I'm taking this at face value, y'all. Sorry.) I'm curious if "I was in a cult" is something that would make an agent want to read your fiction (as in, not a memoir about a cult) more? I always thought that "My last novel won the Man Booker" was more the kind of lie that would grab an agent's attention in a query.

buz
10-14-2015, 08:52 PM
I guess I don't understand what the point of the lie would be either? (I'm taking this at face value, y'all. Sorry.) I'm curious if "I was in a cult" is something that would make an agent want to read your fiction (as in, not a memoir about a cult) more? I always thought that "My last novel won the Man Booker" was more the kind of lie that would grab an agent's attention in a query.

Well if you're going to go that far, you might as well just claim to be Lady Gaga's personal meatlocker attendant.

Which I totally am, by the way, and am prepared to write a tell-all of the various types of meat that are stored and how I dress them up for presentation...