Friday, June 23, 2006

Long Fiction and Articles

During the past month, I have received a number of queries in which writers have stated they have written hundreds of magazine articles, then added that this is their first novel. In my experience, the only direct correlation between the magazine article and long fiction is that they both are forms of writing. The differences, however, are vast.

What is needed in your queries is only your experience in writing long fiction and not that in writing scripts, poetry or any journalistic endeavors. If this is your first novel, ever, state that and only that in your query. If you have written other novels but they are not the ones you are querying on, please mention them.** We realize that many writer boards advise members to list all writing experience in your query letters, but this agency thinks it a waste of time and effort. It means nothing to us as we judge your ability on your writing sample(s) only and not what you say about yourself. We cannot use this information to impress editors, consequently, for us, it is meaningless and unnecessary information.

We are not saying here that a journalist cannot become a novelist. Many famous novelists could do both quite well. We are only saying that adding this to a query letter is more information than we need to evaluate your work, and it could distract from other important ideas in your letter.

Focus is critical in a query! You need to concentrate on what you want to get across to your reader (the agent or editor), just as in a cover letter for a resume you need to focus on narrowly defining the skills and projects that fit the job for which you are applying. The same is true in querying on long fiction.

**However, keep in mind that if you have written seventeen novels and have yet to place one, that might not look so good. If you have written seventeen novels and you just now feel that your work is ready for publication, then make sure that comes across. Don’t let the message in your query come out as, “I can’t get published and I don’t know why, but I just keep writing new stuff.”

2 comments:

DanStrohschein said...

If you have never written a novel before, ever, and are querying, should one say that at all? Although I have never recommended that someone attempt to publish the first novel that they have ever written, if someone wanted to, should they just not say anything about previous experience, since it wouldn't apply?

Sariah S. Wilson said...

Why do people include article credits? Because every single "how-to" book I've ever read tells you to.

This is the first agent blog that I've come across that is against mentioning article publishing credits. Other agents say that by including those credits you're showing them that you can write well enough that somebody at some point paid you actual money for it. Yes they're totally different kinds of writing, but then again, writing a novel is vastly different than writing a query or a synopsis, yet we're expected to have mastered both of those art forms in order to get published.

I think this is the perfect example of why I love agents blogging. Now any author who does their homework on what your agency prefers will know not to talk about any articles they've published, and to keep it solely about the novel writing that they have done.