I am grateful for both of your blogs. I check both of them every day.***
On my query letter, should I note that I self-published a bad novel seven years ago that didn't sell because, basically...........
and if so how should I mention it? Or, should I avoid it on the query and address it honestly if an agent brings it up - assuming, hopefully, that discussions get that far?
You don't have to mention this in the query letter.
DO however, make sure that all evidence of your youthful fling are removed from your website, and from Amazon.
Do NOT reference this work you're querying for as a debut. You can be silent on that point until an agent asks for more info. Then you have to reveal the first book.
The first book is NOT a deal breaker at all. As long as you don't want me to try to sell it, we're good.
And truthfully, it's actually a plus for me. Now that you know how hard it is to sell and promote, hopefully you've been in training for the marathon of publishing for lo, these seven years.
Wait, what, you say? Training??
Yes, training. If you want to write and be published, even though you're still at the early stages, you should be training for publication.
By training I mean things like building contacts among other writers. Those writers will become your first readers and early champions. The community that has grown up around this blog's comment section is the perfect example of that.
By training I mean you avail yourself of information on industry blogs so you learn terminology. You read more than the deals section of Publishers Marketplace. You ask your librarian for the copies of Publishers Weekly they keep behind the desk.
By training I mean you read widely in your category.
By training I mean you support your local bookstores. When you are published, they will be your bosom buddies.
You can do all this without a finished novel, without an agent, without a contract. Then when you have those, you're tuned up and ready to go.
***While this blog updates most every day, QueryShark is much more irregular.
If you follow QueryShark on Twitter, you'll see when that blog has new content.