Not All Your Marvelous Work Should Be Mentioned

Miss Snark,

I am currently working on the umpteenth version of a query letter for a novel. Back in my senior year of high school, I self-published a book of short stories. I wrote it, had it edited, and then made many copies which I gave out to friends and family members. I never sold (or tried to sell) any copies of it. Should I mention that I self-published a book in my query letter, or is this likely to cause an agent to reflexively crumple my query letter into a ball and send it flying through the air into the recycle bin?

Let's think about this for a minute. First, is this writing that will HELP your career? Try to think objectively. Answer: most likely not. In fact I hope not cause I'm hoping you've improved rather dramatically as a writer in the however many years it's been since you Ruled The School as a Swaggering Senior (by the way, Grease the Musical has been banned in Fulton Missouri as "objectionable"...and here I thought all the kids were mounting productions of Rent).

The other thing is the agent can't actually check sales figures for a book you didn't sell, so it's meaningless. Agents are mercenary creatures. The reason we are interested in your "backlist" is to determine if you can write worth spit, and sell. We are not interested in checking your CV for initiative and community service as though you are applying to Yale.

Short answer: no, leave it off.


Jarsto said...

I'm not sure I'd describe what happened as self-publishing. Publishing means making something available to the public, trying to sell it would be a way of doing that.

The process described in the question only speaks of making copies to give to family and friends. I would say this was a question of printing not of publishing. Or to put it differently, if this is publishing anyone who has a friend proofread their work (and provides it in an on paper form) publishes it.

Anonymous said...

Actually, anybody who pays an SP to print their work is, in essence, simply having it printed--there's no real publishing involved in vanity press.

Elektra said...

I thought the rule was: ISBN, published, no ISBN (and no presence in bookstores), printed

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

So, this means I can't mention the newspaper my friends and I published in fifth grade? Dang it! It has all the fifth grade gossip too!

December Quinn said...

Fulton, MO also has the highest traffic fines in the state. For example, if you're going 94 miles an hour in a 65 mph zone, the cost is $337.00.

Um, not that I would know personally. Not me. I always obey the law.

December Quinn said...

Oh, and, apparently, anything over 85 also necessitates a court appearance. Early in the morning. Which makes it hard to get from St. Louis to Fulton without speeding.

bonniers said...

Oooh! Catch-22!

p.s. May I say I hate these word verification things? My eyesight is no longer good enough to let me make out those fine little hooks and tricks that trick the spammers. Whine.

jaywalke said...

The original script of 'Grease' has a lot more vulgarity than 'Rent'. Less homosexuality and more euphemisms, but there are still some nasty lyrics in there. I am always amused when high schools do that show. They spend hours censoring the script, after signing the standard "we will say every word" royalty contract.