Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Q & A 2 Irrelevant Credits

One question on writing credits. I am in the query process for my first novel. I have included both professional publication credits (several chapters in prestigious textbooks) as well as several respected journals I have had poetry published in. Though not directly relevant to whether or not I can write a decent novel, I thought that adding these to the letter would show I have worked with editors/publishers and am serious about the craft of writing. Keep or cut?

By all means, include these credits--if, after fully describing your book to the editor, the page still seems a bit too empty. It won't hurt. Will it help? Let's see, the editor has just read your plot summary, and is thinking to herself, Give me a break, how many disorganized, incoherent queries for Jane Austen ripoffs do I have to read before I lose my lun--oh, wait, this author had a poem in the September issue of Odes and Limericks in 1997; I'd better request the full manuscript.


Zinnia said...

I sometimes wonder if listing credits really makes a difference. I have many professional sales in non-fiction and fiction, but I've never noticed where listing them has helped me gain the attention of an editor or agent. My last agent paid no attention to such sales and looked only at my query letter and sample chapter when he signed me.

By the way, I say that you have _Misery_ listed as your favorite book. It's one of mine too and I loved the movie based on the book just as much. I wish King's _Gerald's Game_ would be turned into a movie.

Rei said...

When you think about it as "I can use an extra paragraph to try to get the editor more hooked" vs "I can use an extra paragraph to tell the editor that I've written nonfiction and poetry before", the former case seems a better call to me.

Bernita said...

I simply said my publishing credits were non-fiction.
Thought it wiser not mention they were also not many and not recent.

Tawny Taylor said...

This surprises me, Zinnia. I would expect an agent--who is looking for authors who have not only sold in the past, but will continue to sell in the future--to take past sales into consideration (assuming they are in the same genre). Perhaps it wouldn't inspire them to sign you, but you'd think it would make them want to give your material a look. Listing my credits seems to help me at the query stage, at least with agents.

Patrice Michelle said...

Ack, MORE postage increases? Sheesh! I'll add my vote for more agents to take email queries!

Here's to no more steaming of my .42 cent stamps!

Rei said...

Well, Miss Snark once said something like the following: if you've signed with a big house, and your first novel sells 10,000 copies, your second better sell at least 20,000, and your third 40,000. Why? They're making money, right? Well, yes, but... they also want to find that writer who's going to sell a million copies, and your measly 10k seller is taking up their resources.

Another way to put it: if you have writing credits, but they're not good ones, why is this supposed to make an agent interested in you? Lets say your last novel was published by No-Name Publishing. What's this going to make the agent think:

A) Yeay! Someone who was published by No-Name Publishing, or
B) Uck. I want to make money, and if this is No-Name Publishing quality instead of Big Big Publisher quality, I'm not taking them on.

Unimpressive writing credentials have the potential to hurt you as much, or even possibly more than (in some cases) help you. Sure, they point out that you can form a cogent sentence and your plots aren't the product of psychosis. But that doesn't mean you're good enough for the big leagues, and actually suggests that you're not.

In this case, it's not so much unimpressive credentials as credentials that aren't that relevant.

Zinnia said...

Tawny Taylor--RYC: I seem to be the oddball writer in everything. That's the only explanation I can come up with, lol!