You're not as boring as you think

Dear Miss Snark ~

Upon doing a search of your blog I could not find a post pertaining to my question, so I thought I would bare my neck before your stiletto heels and ask.

Namely, when one is writing a fiction query letter to an agent (errr...fiction query letter??) do you feel it is important to include biographical information ... if there is nothing in one's biography remotely interesting? Many how-to sites strongly advise including a bio, but I am not published, I have no credentials, and I don't know anybody famous. I really don't think an agent will care that I train border collies and shoot a longbow, since that's not what my book is about, and the fact that I've read in my chosen genre since I was 10 does not sound terribly relevant to a sales pitch.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for the biography-impaired new author?

Well, I think it's quite interesting that you know what a long bow IS, and you know how to shoot one. I don't care if you're writing about computer crime, that's still an interesting thing to know about you. Also, despite the horrifying lapse of not having poodles, the fact that you like dogs is a plus.

Part of telling me this in your Query Letter for Fiction is to give me an inkling of who you are. If you have a crackerjack novel, we're going to be working together for many productive years I hope, and knowing you are adept with weapons of medieval mass destruction is good to know.

PS Killer Yapp wonders if border collies read Haberdashery for Dogs?


Andy said...

Miss Snark,

This post strikes me as a little freaky... I have been mentally composing a letter to you along these lines all week...

I was thinking that I would be best off ignoring the bio section since I can't say that I have an MFA from a Snooty University, or even a BA from State U, and I've never been published before. I have been given the impression by the writings other agents that I would come across as an idiot if I tried to simply say something like, "I am currently employed homeschooling a pre-schooler, have lived in multiple countries in my role as a Navy brat and Navy wife, and read obsessively about the subject of my novel." And would still sound like an idiot even if I cleaned that up considerably. My book is not about parenting or travel or even being in a relationship, even though there are romantic elements. And any author who doesn't read obsessively about their topic probably is an idiot. But you seem to be implying, Miss Snark, that you care about the bio not just for pitching purposes but as a way to figure out who is trying to talk to you. Am I overly cynical for being impressed by that?

Aarin said...

With time so short, I would not advise adding an amusing anecdote about your dogs, 3 kids, and favor of snow-sports. Back--fire!

Stick to the point.

shelby said...

You and me both, Andy! I too was thinking of asking this same question and I have to say, Miss Snark's answer was such a relief.

kitty said...

Now I'm confused. I thought that an agent's time is so limited that the writer should not waste it with interesting bio tidbits in the query letter.

From Miss Snark's Personalizing a query letter
Honest to dog, you do not need this. I know you think it will help, and it might distinguish you from the pack, but for every one of you who has this kind of connection, 10,000 of you are now going to obsess that you need one.

you don't.
What do you need?
Shall we say it all together now?



writtenwyrdd said...

There is no way I am going to go on about my boring life, even though some people think my job is unusual. The only interesting thing about me is that I write!

Chumplet said...

I see border collies in tweed caps.

GutterBall said...

I can juggle. Does that help?

throckey said...

Miss Snark,

I was more interested in writing a fictional query letter since it's unlikely that I will ever complete a novel. It's not that I don't enjoy writing, I just find building medieval seige engines like trebuchets to be more compelling.

What are the guidelines for writing a fictional query letter? Do I need to stay within genre, for example, and write breathlessly of my desire to consumate publication of the romance I will never write?

And if I'm writing a query letter for a manuscript that will never exist, is it really necessary to include such details about the manuscript that you actually believe it could exist? After all, a fictional query letter has to be something of a waste of time for a literary agent. It seems like manners might be more important that substance in this case, yes?

Anonymous said...

I can't help but be a bit confused myself. Some of the queries in the last Crapometer had somewhat superfluous information in them and there were many times when Miss Snark said to get to the point, that all that extra doesn't matter, and can even hinder your chances with a very busy agent.

Excellent question, Bio-impaired New Author.

HawkOwl said...

Lucky for me, being a truck driver is completely relevant to the book I really would like to (finish and) sell. So much so that I can't finish it until I go out trucking again. That will make for an easy query letter. "Dear Miss Snark, I'm a truck driver and I've written a book about the Tao of trucks. Please represent it. See you down the road."

On the other hand, there is nothing in my life remotely relevant to my novels, but I don't care that much about the novels, so that's ok.

Anonymous said...

LOL, ooops, sorry, everyone. "Fictional query letter" was a slip of the keyboard - chalk it up as nerves over my first post to Miss Snark. ;-) I PROMISE that my query letter does not have the words "fiction" or "fictional" anywhere in it, since a novel is by definition fiction.

But thank you, Miss Snark, for answering this. It does help to think that perhaps a one-sentence blurb that gives a glimpse of who I am is acceptable. I simply did not want to bore or annoy anyone with non-relevant blah-ness. So this helps. I suspect the trick, then, is to keep anything about me very, very brief, since I have no actual credentials.

By the way, please tell Killer Yap that my border collies being Western dogs are unfamiliar with that publication. However, if it includes sections on Western wear, they would be interested. ;-) (Yes, Chumplet, some border collies wear tweed, but mine are totally into denim.)

Thanks again, Miss Snark, and to everyone else who commented.
Best regards,

G. Atwater
aka Bio Impared Author