Thursday, March 1, 2018

Dear OAbby: What Goes in the Bio Section of a Query Letter?

Dear OAbby is a new feature on Operation Awesome where we answer your questions! It's an advice column by writers, for writers, chock-full of information about writing, querying, the publication process, etc. If you have a question you'd like answered, just send it to operationawesome6@gmail.com. All questions may be edited for clarity and/or space, and will be posted anonymously, with no identifying information.

Dear OAbby,

A few years ago I took a "by application only" class with one of the top authors in the same genre that I write in. Is that something I should include in the bio part of a query letter?

Sincerely, 
Querying Author

Dear Querying Author,

As with many questions in life (and in the world of writing and publishing), the answer to your question is a definitive 'maybe.' It really depends on what happened during the class. Did the author work directly with you on your book? Was the book you were working on during the class the same book you're querying now? Did they give you any solid critique or compliments you can use to your advantage in a query? For example, if the author told you, "this book is the best example of a realistic were-fox/mermaid relationship I've ever seen in print!" then feel free to to put something like, "I took a by-application-only class with Author X, and after reading an excerpt of my work, they said this book was the best example of a realistic were-fox/mermaid relationship they'd ever seen." Something like that is concrete (and complimentary) enough to use the precious space in a query letter on.

'By application only' might be useful, but again, it depends on the details. Were you chosen from a pool of thousands of applicants? Did your selection depend on a writing excerpt, and was the writing excerpt from the book you're currently querying? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then it's probably not relevant in a query.

On the other hand, if you took the class and didn't get any positive, personalized feedback on the work you're currently querying, then it's probably not worth including. Instead, if you choose to include bio information in your query, it should be one or two items that will really sell you as an author. Did your writing win a prize in a prestigious contest? Are you an #ownvoices writer? Is your novel about a time-traveling doctor in Scotland, while you are also a time-traveling doctor living in Scotland? These are good kinds of credentials to include. If you don't have these credentials, then just leave out the bio! Typically, agents don't expect bio information, nor will they look askance at a query that doesn't include it. Focus on the plot and characters in your book and maybe a couple of comps.

Happy Writing!

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