How important are your writing credentials? When your bio is like b.o.

I like to think that I’m like dark chocolate.  A little bitter, but with too much cocoa, the bitterness is so overpowering you decide to stop eating it. So my bitterness level is like cocoa. Sometimes, I’m a 70% cocoa, sometimes I push the 90% boundary, and other times, I’m straight dark chocolate.

Today I’m straight dark chocolate. Maybe, 50% cocoa instead of your usual 45%; I do like to push the boundaries. But either way, in Lorelle terms, I’m standard dark chocolate.

I’ve been dissecting the query letter. After all my post-submission options, I’m hunting agents, which means I’m dissecting queries. Which takes months. So they deserve their own post. Not this one. Today I can say, and only today,  ‘Begone, Agents.’ – but don’t go too far. I will need you in about 345 days when I finish my blurb.

So I get to the Bio. And it hits me. What the fudge ( dark chocolate fudge of course) ! All this time, I’ve been glossing over the bio because it sits at the bottom and has none of me in it – no ‘ I ‘ in it – so my bio may as well be called a b.o. And yes, it stinks.

Credentials. How important are they? If I have none, should I pack up my little keyboard and let my cats use it as a bridge between two chairs? It becomes their new chair?

When you apply for a job, you take note of the work experience required and you only apply if you have the necessary credentials. Why would it be any different in the literary world?

In a job interview, when you are asked about your weaknesses, you know that you have to say something to the effect of: I’m too dedicated; I spend too much time perfecting my work; I have trouble delegating.  A weakness with that positive spin. You just know that you should answer in that way. There’s a technique, an understanding.

Publishers and agents can spot amateurs; there are red flags, apparently. If I’m entrenched in the industry, considered one of them, I would know not to apply without such credentials? And being entrenched as such, I would have been racking up such achievements without it being a box that needs to be ticked?

Should they say, you shouldn’t apply if you haven’t won or placed in a writing competition, or had some piece, however small, published? Or the fact that I need to ask, means that I shouldn’t apply?


14 thoughts on “How important are your writing credentials? When your bio is like b.o.

  1. I had this exact same issue when I was querying last year. I didn’t have any concrete writing credentials, at least none since high school. So I mentioned being a professional Twitter marketer, writing daily in my blog and how my experience in both areas helped create buzz about my book. Agents want to know a little about yourself and your social media presence. An agent once told me to never fluff up or lie in your bio. They see right through that. So you could mention your lovely blog here or not say anything at all. Good luck with your query letter. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your insight and for popping by 🙂 I’ve joined a few writers’ associations and have started attending some seminars and have mentioned these. I was also going to mention my blog and twitter but worried that I didn’t have enough followers for it to be a significant contribution ( I read somewhere that you need to have thousands of followers for it to be considered ) Maybe that’s it? If I don’t have the awards and such, maybe I have to build more of a platform. I know I can’t do it all – not in a short space of time, anyway…

  2. The bio is important, fleshing it out with published short stories or non- fiction, writing competitions and of course your blog. The editor needs something to go to the marketing team with. 🙂

    • I think I need to spend some time researching competitions and other ways I can publish shorter works. I just need to get onto that – and to writing shorter works :S With my blog, should I mention it even though I don’t have followers that number in the thousands? Thank you for your helpful comments, yet again 🙂

  3. I think you can mention your blog and try publishing short stories at smaller presses. I use the submission grinder for ideas of where to submit things. I made a goal of submitting so many things every week. It can be disappointing. I’m over 400 submissions for just over 50 publications and they are mostly in smaller presses. Keep moving forward. That’s the key.

    • Thank you for the advice 🙂 School holidays are coming up, and it might be a good opportunity to start on some short stories! I guess the hardest part is knowing where to start. Once I an idea of whats out there, it won’t seem so daunting, I suppose.

  4. This is such an interesting post (again!). Heartfelt thanks. I think the bottom line is easily established. Our profession / work / call it what you want is essentially creative in nature. If we have the talent, it’ll shine through. That’s good enough for me.

  5. All of the websites say you don’t need any writing credentials, but they also suggest submitting to short story places to have being published on your resume. Yeah, my bio is the same, a whole lot of nothing.

  6. So, it looks like I’m going to have to get some short stories going. I guess they can always be novellas/short stories that are part of my series. I might even be able to flesh out some backstory when I do 🙂

  7. The more I read of your worries, Lorelle, the more I think I will give all that a miss and self-publish! You have 776 followers to date, that figure is not to be sneezed at. I once read a post by a publisher who said she would not even look at an author who was not prepared to launch an authors platform. Your blog is an asset. Do mention it. I wouldn’t waste time on the short stories, that’s a backward step while you are pushing a novel. If your story is good enough, the lack of other published works does not matter. 🙂

  8. I’m trying really hard to work on the quality of the writing they will scan first. Thanks to your advice, I found that the synopsis may not even be read and that the first few pages of the MS are most important 🙂 Now that I’m hunting agents, that query letter will have to be super sharp. I’m almost with you, though, With all this work I’m doing, I’m closer and closer to trying self publishing lol.

  9. In my experience (I’ve been at this game for a while), you can have 10 questions and get 80 different answers to each. Agents want this? Agents want that? It’s easy to become obsessed with trying to be all things to all people. If you veer in X direction to please Agent Y, Agents A and B will hate what you’ve done.

    I like the idea you’ve suggested elsewhere of looking at others’ successful pitches. We learn a lot by imitation. If there’s a certain gee-whiz quality that a majority of successful pitches have, that’s worth copying. I do worry because what I’m working on now is so between genres. What works for other genres might not work for this un-generic book. But I like the idea of seeing what has worked for others. Thanks!

    • You have brought up a valuable point and it highlights one of my biggest problems. I have this knee-jerk reaction to every tweet and blog that provides advice on tastes and trends, where I try to tailor my query to appeal to more agents. But what I forget is that while I’m making myself more vanilla, lets say, I might be losing the few that would appreciate the wilder side of me – and those few may be all I need 🙂 After all, it would take a crazy person to be a fan of my work. And maybe that’s just what I need 🙂

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