Friday, September 13, 2013

How to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter...and not sound like a jerk

If you've been following my blog, you know that Friday is Writers Pay it Forward, and today I'm talking about How to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter (not your book, but yourself. 

When I wrote my query letter for my first paranormal romance, DESPITE THE GHOSTS, I naively thought the Author Bio portion of the query letter would be a breeze. In fact, of the four parts to a query letter (See the Anatomy of a Query Letter here), I figured the brief writing bio would be the easiest. I was talking about myself. How hard could it be?

Really freaking hard, is the answer to that question. 

I hated writing the Author Bio/Writing Credits part of the letter, and not just because I wasn't published at the time. I even hated it the second time with ANY WITCH WAY, after I'd been published already. And, surprise! When I wrote my query letter to my editor for my third novel, DESPITE THE FANGS, it was about as effortless as extracting an impacted tooth, and she knew both me and my writing!

It's tough to write about yourself and make it sound professional, yet not come off as a braggart. Or an idiot. So, in the spirit of  paying it forward, I'm going to give you my tips to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter, and below that, you can see my Author Bio/Writing Credits portion of all three of my novels (which all got a contract from The Wild Rose Press):

3 Ways to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter:

1. The Author Bio/Writing Credits paragraph, typically toward the end of your query letter, tells the agent/editor who you are as a writer, and what writing props and/or other skills that you possess. List any publication credits you have here, but list only the most relevant. TIP: If you have NO writing credits, don't apologize. Let your writing speak for itself and move on to Step 2. 

2. List any writing groups you belong to, as it demonstrates your dedication to writing. For example, in my first novel, I had only my critique group to boast of (and yes, this is a good thing to mention, as it shows the agent/editor that you are serious enough to seek out feedback--a key quality in a good writer). In my second novel's query letter, I was a member of RWA as well as a VP of a writing organization. TIP: If you are NOT a member of a writing organization (in your genre, preferably!), sign up, for Pete's sake! If you ARE a member of a writing organization, you better get yourself involved. Write the newsletter, hold an office--anything to distinguish yourself above the rest of the saps in the slush pile!

3. Include any relevant life experience/hobbies as it relates to your expertise in writing that novel. The key word here is relelvant--I run marathons, scrapbook and have a Shiz Tsu, but none of that is relevant to any of my novels to date. However, if I were pitching a book featuring a marathon runner, scrapbooker-turned-serial-killer, or where a Shiz Tsu was the narrator, then it's relevant! TIP: If you do have a hobby/relevant life experience that relates to your novel, remember to use that to your advantage when you are published! If your heroine knits, hold a book signing in a knitting store, or create a blog that features your books, plus your knitting to appeal to both audiences.

And finally, here are my Author Bio/Writing Credits paragraphs from each of my query letters. They may not be perfect, but both my query letters landed me a publishing contract!

Author Bio/Writing Credits paragraph I used when I sold my first novel, DESPITE THE GHOSTS: (my transition sentence makes more sense when you read the whole query letter here)

Unlike Nola, my publishing credits are more mundane. They include a year-long stint with as a Go-To writer, publishing a total of 22 “Stories from the Heart” and educational articles for their website. I have writing credits with several local newspapers, as well as training and sales materials created for corporate clients. I am an RWA member, as well as a member of Scribbler’s Ink, a Tampa-based writer’s group.

Author Bio/Writing Credits in my query letter that sold ANY WITCH WAY. While I sold it to The Wild Rose Press (same publisher as published DTG, my old editor was gone, so it was sort of like starting anew.
My most recent publishing credit is my debut novel, DESPITE THE GHOSTS, a paranormal romance published with The Wild Rose Press in 2009. My website, contains a blurb and excerpt of the novel, as well as current events to promote the book. As Vice President and Co-Founder of Sunshine State Romance Authors, a Florida chapter of Romance Writers of America, I believe in doing my homework and the Black Rose line at The Wild Rose Press would be the perfect home for my novella.
I hope this helps you on your query journey!

Happily My Ever After,

Need more help? Click here for my Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query Letters and check out my post on the Anatomy of a Query Letter here.
Want to see the entire query letter for DESPITE THE GHOSTS? Click here.


  1. Great tips! The bio section is especially difficult if you're unpublished. For "Hurricane Crimes" I could only list the ezines that had published my flash/short fiction, but it apparently worked. ;)

    I live in Florida, and although I'm not a member of Romance Writers of America (yet), I am interested in the Sunshine State Romance Authors if you could tell me more about it. :)


    1. Chrys,
      Listing your e-zines is another way to demonstrate you have honed your writing skills, and you were right to include them in your query to TWRP. And congrats on your contract! Can't wait to see "Hurricane Crimes" when it comes out.

      I will email you offline re: my involvement in SSRA. I would highly recommend getting involved in a writing group. Helps ease that lonely writer's life, and puts what I call 'positive peer pressure' on you to produce.

      Thanks for stopping by, Chrys!