I realize there are many ways to blow a query letter, but one of the best ways to screw the pooch is to lead your query with your bio.The reason is two-fold. To my trained eye it says, “Hey, I’m a big shot, look at me. I’m this and that, and did this and said that. I am tooo freaking cool for school, and you’d be a bona fide cow pie for not jumping through the monitor to offer me a contract for…oh yeah, I have this book I’d like you to look at. ” Thud.
You should always lead with the thing you’re trying to sell, which is your writing. And here’s why; I received a query today that detailed an impressive bio. I grew more excited with each paragraph about the author’s lofty career. “Oooo, baby, you struck the muthalode this time,” methinks.
See, his bio was impressive for the book I was expecting. But it was a grave disappointment for what he was pitching; a novel. His bio, which took up huge amounts of space within his query, had zilch to do with his novel. By the time I was halfway through his pitch, I was let down because there was such a vast disconnect between who he is and the book he wrote.
His novel could have been written by anyone, so why showcase his bio? Hello, Mr. Misfire. The author made the mistake of thinking his bio was his platform when, in reality, it was nothing more than an afterthought. Is this how you want an agent or editor to think when reading your query? It’s about the writing and the story. Just because you’re the CEO of a widget company doesn’t mean your book about woodworking or rogue angels who tamper with the lives of three teenagers is going to sell. You have no platform for it, and leading off with “I’m the CEO of Acme Widget Company,” makes my eyes cross because your readership doesn’t care.
Now before you think me as a chronically grumpy old broad, let me say that he was rejected because his pitch was substandard, and he left no gaffe or misstep to chance. But yes, I was already cranky, which upset the beagle and left the new copy editor wondering why she’d taken the job.
No matter how big your bio and no matter how groovey you think you are, it still comes down to the story and the writing. Don’t mistake your bio for increasing my slobber quotient.
Edited to add: I’m not talking about Big Name people who have major name/face recognition. They can crank out a diddy on a box of Shredded Wheat and some editor would buy it. I’m talking about mere mortals who may have a lovely list of accomplishments but has nothing to do with what they’ve written. [thanks, Jason!]