Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Q & A 25 Credits Worth Mentioning

Is "I have been active in a critique group" really worth mentioning in your query letter? My critique group has been very helpful, but I guess I thought that mentioning it in the letter might seem a trifle desperate--especially as I have no publication credits to tack it onto the end of.

If you list credits at the end of your letter, chances are the editor or agent has made a decision before getting to them.

If that decision is Yes, then you don't need any credits.

If that decision is Maybe, then impressive credits could be helpful. Your critique group isn't impressive, but if you have only one or two credits to mention, they're going to look lonely in a paragraph by themselves, so there's nothing wrong with padding that paragraph with your contest honorable mention, your membership in The Missouri Writers Network, or your critique group participation (choose one--all three might seem a trifle desperate, as you said). Just make sure you've devoted as much space as necessary to your book before you consider padding anything.

If that decision is No, then the only credits that might have an effect are, My previous book sold 100,000 copies, or My article, "How to Murder People Who Disappoint You, and Get Away With It," appeared in last month's Soldier of Fortune.


Brenda said...

This actually brings up an interesting thing I read on another professional's blog. Someone asked if they should include that they held PRO status and RWA membership in their query letter and she basically laughed at this idea. If was regarding the RWA membership or the PRO status specifically, I'm not sure.

Now, for those of us who are PRO members, it was kind of odd and sparked a lot of discussion on various email loops. Granted, I guess if an agency doesn't deal a lot with RWA authors, they may not realize that. But other times, many agents and editors (when speaking about constructing query letters) have said to specifically include it because they know exactly what it means: We've proven we can complete a manuscript (not necessarily a GOOD one, but still, we hit THE END and didn't just have three polished chapters for repeated contest entries) and that it's been requested and/or seen by an agent/editor, not to mention the tons of other things RWA does just to help those members in that "middle ground" status of "not new at this" but also "not published".

This is another example of things we're told that contradict others. It's very frustrating... and not in a good way either. It's not like this type of frustration is going to end in orgasm, ya know?

So, from a different point of view, what is your opinion of seeing this "creditial" at the end of a query letter?

Evil Editor said...

Here's the thing. On the one hand, the RWA does a great job of training writers, and if you're a member, an editor is not going to think you're clueless. So mention it if you have room. On the other hand, anyone who professes a desire to make a living writing romance can join. So on the scale of what's an impressive credit, it's way higher up than being a member of the Missouri Writers Network, or being in a critique group, but it's nowhere near as high as, I've sold two books to RWA-recognized publishers. In fact, if you've sold two books, you've progressed past the point where you need to mention being an RWA member. That doesn't mean don't mention it. It just means that from now on, it doesn't matter if you mention it.

Anonymous said...

OMG, the RWA "pro" question rears its head again. Other industry blogs I've read were closer to the "don't bother" end of the spectrum than EE seems to be. But then, most seem down on padding the query in general than EE sounds like (which caught me off-guard).

Brenda - I'm sure everyone's different (editors are like snowflakes, agents are like snowflakes, etc.). But if you want some logic to consider (and most advice from EE, Miss Snark, Editor Anna, Agent Kristin, etc. is pretty darned logical!), then consider this:

If you're querying, you've completed a manuscript. (A very small assumption, but work with me here.) So why should anyone care that you joined RWA and then went on to get the disingenuously-named "pro" designation? Either you've been published or you haven't. The writing is what counts. Completing a manuscript, or 500, means nothing if none of them have sold. What matters is, is this manuscript (that you're querying) completed? Of course it is, so what's it matter if you completed one other -- or perhaps NONE other (since you could get the pro status on that same manuscript -- the editor/agent has absolutely no way to know).

EE: Some of the RWA myths I've read about sound very clueless...it's disheartening to think that an editor or agent might believe that joining an org that anyone can join somehow makes someone clueful.

Anyway, no offense against the no-doubt-large RWA contingent; I'm just trying to throw logic at the "should I mention it or not" question. (That might be silly on my part.;-) Unlike EE, I have no special knowledge here.

Brenda said...

Kendall, I'm glad you admit you aren't totally clued in on this, because something you said is vitally incorrect: "joining an org that anyone can join somehow makes someone clueful."

True, anyone can join RWA, but not everyone can have PRO status nor the different aspects of the organization targetted toward that particular group. EE is dead-on when he says that PROs ARE clued in, given special classes, special agent/editor panels, etc. It weeds out the "we wish we were writers" to the "I'm serious about this".

And surprisingly, many people who send in queries do NOT have a completed manuscript (coming from different panels of agents/editors I've listened in on, including one with Kristen Nelson, where they all agreed to mention PRO status in the query or cover letter.) It's surprising when speaking to "writers" that they truly believe they can sell on just proposal, and sometimes, even just on an IDEA. Those of us doing this for awhile know better, but no, not everyone does.

I used to add it on mine, but finally took out everything that didn't have to do with the actual book itself.

Anyway, I just wondered EE's view on it. Never hurts to get more and more information to add to what one has already obtained, right? :)

Anonymous said...

Brenda: Thanks for the response.

"joining an org that anyone can join...": That wasn't vitally incorrect of me; anyone can join RWA. But re. PRO, the PRO app I read indicated, IIRC, that one need simply submit a manuscript (I don't recall how proof it was a complete manuscript was handled, if at all). But anyway, I still don't know why anyone would care (see below).

PROs ARE clued in: Perhaps, but that's not the same as being clueful. Many people hear clues (repeatedly...) and ignore them. I'm not saying it's endemic to RWA or PRO (I wouldn't know, of course). But I believe that presuming "hearing clues" = "clueful" would be very silly. The proof of the cluefulness isn't in RWA membership or RWA+PRO status, it's in the actual package (query/partial/full/etc.), methinks.

Re. querying without a completed manuscript -- as I said, an assumption. But a query on an uncompleted novel supports my logic even better. I.e. why should an editor or agent care if someone completed a manuscript in the past (RWA PRO status) since it doesn't even indicate the one being queried is complete?

Kristen: Sorry, but I've read too many blog comments tonight that get this wrong: It's Kristin.

Never hurts to get more and more information to add to what one has already obtained, right? :): Of course -- but that naturally leads to comments (er, EE allowing, of course). But IMHO, it's all good discussion, whether or not we agree!