Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Query: my zipcode is in Cyrillic

I am an American living in Finland, and, after completing my middle grade novel and carefully self-sharking my query, I'm ready to query agents. However, I'm concerned that when I include my contact details, seeing that I'm outside the US will be a showstopper.

We travel due to my husband's work, so while it is possible that I will be living back in the US at the end of the year, it's equally possible that we'll be in Beijing, or elsewhere in the world. I include this because I don't feel like I can just wait until we're back in the US to start trying to find an agent--it may be years before we go home.

So what I'd like to know is: Do I need to state in my query that I am a native English speaker and an American to remove that as a potential roadblock? And do you think having a foreign address will discourage agents from representing me?

First question: got a guest room?
Second question: are you planning to have people contact you by carrier pigeon?

Most of us recognize when we're queried by non-native speakers writing in English. There are interesting turns of phrase and often some very interesting word choices.  If your writing is of publishable quality I don't care if English is the seventeenth language you learned, and neither will anyone else.

Your actual physical address is the least important part of your query. Just don't mention you live in Finland, or China, or next door to me, and it's all good.

Here's how that looks in your query:

Thank you for your time and consideration.

AmazingAndAwesome Writer
(website/other electronic outpost)

 Because you're querying via electrons not post, right? RIGHT?


Susan Bonifant said...

"If your writing is of publishable quality I don't care if English is the seventeenth language you learned, and neither will anyone else."

Oh my God. This attitude is enough to make me want to change genres JUST so I can query Janet Reid.

Anonymous said...

Ditto, Susan.

Isn't it funny/strange the things we writers worry about? We need to adopt Alfred E. Neuman's philosophy, "What, Me Worry?"

As his creator, Al Feldstein said, "I want him to have this devil-may-care attitude, someone who can maintain a sense of humor while the world is collapsing around him.”

And then we need to rubber stamp what Ms. Janet said following that..."if your writing is..."

Corinne Duyvis said...

FWIW, I do not and never have lived in the US or any English-speaking country; I have zero plans for doing so; English isn't my native language. As far as I know, no one has ever seen it as an obstacle, and I've mentioned my location in every query letter I've ever sent. I've had two agents and a combined four offers, and my first book is hitting shelves this year.

So it's absolutely not a show-stopper. Some people might hesitate, but they're in the minority. So don't worry about your location being off-putting or about including the fact that you're a native English speaker. (If I were you, I'd mention the American-living-in-Finland part, but only because it's an interesting factoid for the bio section.)

Good luck querying!

Craig said...

Just get a Gmail or Hotmail account and no one but you hairdresser and the NSA will know for sure.

Agents are supposedly in touch with readers (some more than others) and most fiction readers do so as an escape mechanism. The difference in outlook from someone outside and looking in can add to that. Good luck

Patti Buff said...

I also live in Europe and at a writing conference in Paris (Yes - I am bragging) that exact question was asked to editors.

The general response was it would be great if you could get to the US on your own dime for you to be there to promote your book. Don't expect the publishers to pay for flights to and from the US.

But other than that, they said it didn't matter much where you are based. Just write a great book and the rest will come.

Anonymous said...

I know of a fellow Alaskan who was rejected by an agent because the agent only repped Americans.

Seriously, that really happened. (She got another agent and is now quite well-known.)

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I would make the guest room part of the contract.

What about phone number for those oh-so-lovely email fails. I find my ISP likes to randomly block international mail, especially if she does get stationed in China. I don't know if she has a cell to communicate with family. Also, could she give a phone number in the US, as in trusted family, as a fallback.

But the guest room is really the deal-maker.


LynnRodz said...
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Elissa M said...

I have a niece who used to live in West Virginia. On a visit out of state, she was carded. When she showed her drivers license, she was told, "If you're going to make a fake ID, you should at least use a real state."

I currently reside in New Mexico. The state tourism office continues to get calls asking if a visa and/or passport is needed to visit here.

I think travel experience and living in foreign countries would be an asset to a writer. Any agent who has a problem with foreign residency is like the agent who didn't know Alaska is one of the United States-- an agent you don't want.

LynnRodz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LynnRodz said...

(Let me try this again! LOL!) If an agent didn't know that an Alaskan is an American, I'd get another agent as well!

Julie Artz said...

Thanks for this, Your Sharkness. I have a guest bedroom and a tumbler of whisky with your name on it should you ever find yourself in these frozen hinterlands.