Thursday, October 31, 2019

answer the question!

"This is my sixth book"

"I've had multiple books published"

"I'm an award winning writer"

When you put things like this in your query, you're not telling me what I need to know. What I need to know is:

1. Were any of those previous five books published? If not, you don't need to mention them AT ALL. If they were (any or all) see #2.

2a. By whom? You? Spanx, Spandex and Thighs LLC, a boutique publisher in Lingerie, ND? Simon and Schuster?

2b When?

3. What awards? And not just the name, but who gave it. Unless it's something well-known like the Edgar, or Hugo, or National Book Award, you need to provide details.

All too many writers try to puff themselves up to appear like big fish in the pond.

You don't need to do this.
Write a story I want to read and I don't care if it's your first book, and no one has yet recognized your obvious genius.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

The opposite reaction to what do I, a yet to debut author, put in the bio section of the query? I suppose the question would be for the agent, if the querying chum has "multiple" published books and "awards", why are they shopping for an agent? Don't they already have one? And if not, would not a reputable publisher be referring them to an agent? My agent persona has just pushed delete on this query. And accidentally deleted my own...oops.

One day I will have multiple books published and have awards attached to my name. But when that day comes, I hope to all the publishing gods, I will no longer need to query agents. I will have the published books and awards BECAUSE I have an agent. Until then, the bio details are sketchy at best. This bit of the query is causing me all sorts of insecure rodent wheel spins at the moment.

french sojourn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"All too many writers try to puff themselves up to appear like big fish in the pond."

I love to "puff" that I've had hundreds of articles, op-eds and essays published. I've written a column that has appeared in two newspapers. I've been so full of myself sometimes that it's a wonder my head fits through the door.

And yet, I'm not a big fish in any pond.

I'm a minnow in a mud puddle and proud.

Amy Johnson said...

I'm an award winning writer. I'm a writer, and I was awarded a prize (back in the fourth grade, along with Debbie, my best friend at the time, for being the fastest in the three-legged race). Really.

JulieWeathers said...

My only claim to fame seems to be acknowledgments in various books. Some of them are best-sellers, but still, that's a rather dubious shot at fame.

Like Carolynn, I've had a number of articles published. Thousands over a twenty-five span, but who cares about human interest stories about horse racing and sports stories about horse racing?

I, alas, must depend on my meager writing skills to attract attention.

Colin Smith said...

The only writing credential you need:

I received a special mention in/was a finalist in/won a Janet Reid Flash Fiction Contest


I all seriousness, if you query Janet, mention this. Though in all likelihood she'll remember you.

Fearless Reider said...

I, too, am an award-winning writer: watermelon seed-spitting champion of Fayette County, 1978. It’s definitely going into my query. Try to contain your envy.

JulieWeathers said...

"I received a special mention in/was a finalist in/won a Janet Reid Flash Fiction Contest."

Yes, thanks for reminding me I have never won one of those.

slinks off in defeat.

Dena Pawling said...

>>1. Were any of those previous five books published?

I have published more than 1000 legal briefs. They're published because they're filed with the Superior Court of the State of California [several counties], which makes them public documents.

>>2a. By whom?

Technically self-published, altho I could stretch it a bit and say Superior Courts throughout Southern California.

2b When?

Over the past 25+ years.

3. What awards? And not just the name, but who gave it.

I once drafted a brief on a hotly contested issue while I had the flu. At the hearing, the judge admonished me - "Counsel, I don't advise ever using this brief as a writing sample." Looking back on it, the judge was being very charitable. However, after argument by both sides, the ruling was in my favor. That's award enough for me =)

I have a few finalist and special mentions from Janet. Too bad she doesn't rep MG fiction =(

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Of the 135 contests over the past 9.5 years, how many have you entered? I'm sure you can come up with a 100 word story that would *at least* be worthy of a mention. And I don't think I'm alone in having that confidence in your talent. Just sayin'... :)

Colin Smith said...

BTW, yes... May 20, 2020 will be the 10th anniversary of the writing contests. I shudder to think what Janet might have in mind to celebrate...!! 8-\

Brenda said...

I’ve consider ‘Best Writer in a hundred square mile radius.’

Only writer, that is. I’m out standing in my field.


JulieWeathers said...


I used to enter them faithfully and finally realized it is simply not my forte.

french sojourn said...

However Julie Weathers, there are a lot of your comments that will live in infamy. I would bet every lurker / reider / reefer / has there own favorite of yours.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Colin when I query Janet with the novel I hope to be querying next year, I'll mention that! But only because this novel came from one of those 100 word stories. ;)

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Let's be honest here. Your query to Janet will be: "Hey, Snookums--here it is AT LAST. See attached."

Janet: Am I wrong? Hmm??


Janet Reid said...

I've actually toyed with the idea of collecting JulieWeathers comments into a chapbook.

Some of those stories make me laugh YEARS later.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I love how the advice and encouragement here always circles back to what matters most: write a story people want to read.

For me, I've spent so much time beating myself up as a writer, clinging to the little victories becomes a way to emotionally survive.

I'm the traditionally published author of three nonfiction books. I've been told I don't need to say "traditionally" when querying. Regardless of how good it felt to say the word. I was with a reputable idie press that accepted authors without agents, and I had a wonderful experience with them. They do not, however, publish fiction - which is why I was searching for an agent for my middle grade.

One of my nonfiction titles won a Feathered Quill Award. I'm aware this isn't a wiz-bang big deal, but, as mentioned, we cling to the little victories.

JulieWeathers said...


Oh, trust me. I will always query Janet. She's had a sneak peek at The Rain Crow query.

The query for Cowgirls Wanted will simply be, "Here it is. Now stop bugging me."

Well, no, I'll probably write a query for it.

Oddly enough at Surrey the last time, I holed up in a corner at a party with Jack Whyte and we talked the night away about all things historical. We went from Sarmatians, to ancient Romans, to Celts, to the Civil War, to battle tactics, to wartime medicine to lady bronc riders and everything in between. We had discussed The Rain Crow (he'd read part of it and liked it) and Cowgirls Wanted, which fascinated him. When I left he shouted across the room, "Write the damned book!"

I laughed and said I would.

He shouted at me again and said I better.

So, I have two people waiting for it. Yay!

Craig F said...

Wow, I really have written six books, they are part of the million words you need to write thing. They can be backlist for the question "what else have you written".

I was published in second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade. I also wrote SOPs for several associations and our State Department of Environmental Protection. I have lost track of how many technical and instructional pieces I have written.

Then I turned down a college run (NEA grant)publisher of short stories because I didn't like their terms.

All of that is moot except for the experiences I can hold to heart and help to sustain me during this interminable wait for responses, to CNR the agents I have sent queries to.

Haven't even mentioned that I was a nine time State Champion and wrote training and nutrition articles for both the state newsletter and Federally run journal.

Barbara Etlin said...

Julie, there are more than two people waiting to read your books!

I once received a letter from an obnoxious lawyer who sounded full of himself. He had signed it, Mr. Obnoxious Lastname, Q.C. Q.C. stands for Queen's Counsel, an honororary title that was no longer used, even back then, 20 years ago. I signed my reply letter with my name, followed by P.W. (I didn't bother to inform him that P.W. was my self-given honorary title, Published Writer. At least I had earned my title, not had it handed to me because I worked for a prestigious law firm.)

John Davis Frain said...

My favorite Julie Weathers are the two long-living ladies sitting out on the front porch sipping on sweet tea ... mixed, I'm sure, with some homemade concoction. My mind isn't working well enough at the moment to remember their names, but I can sure picture them.

Whoa, Nelly, I'd read a story that featured those two as soon as I could get my hands on it. And I suspect those two ladies would never find themselves in the neighborhood of a 100-word story.

They just have too much to say! An no one worth their smelling salt should even take a crack at editing them down to a hundred. Wouldn't be right.

I think it was James Michener who said "it takes me six pages to say 'Hello'." Oh, here I am back on word count again. A day late as usual.

Fearless Reider said...

Reefers will be lined up for blocks, Julie. Count on it!

Beth Carpenter said...

Julie, count me in! The story about the starched bluejeans still makes me giggle.

JulieWeathers said...

John Davis Frain

Martha and Tilley. There is a whole collection of Martha and Tilley stories and a screenplay somewhere about how they become detectives and rescue a missing lady elder spy. Their last escapade got them thrown in jail for Tilley trying to to bribe a deputy out of ticket with sexual favors. Crazy old bats.

Thank you all. I needed this. It's been a down week.

John Davis Frain said...

Martha and Tilley. Yes, yes, yes.

If I were a deputy (and what a scary world that would be), Tilley would have me twisted into so many knots I’d write myself a ticket. And then follow her home to drink some spiked lemonade on that porch just to hear some more stories.

Keep writing, Julie. Your readers are waiting.

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