Thursday, July 17, 2008

How Much to Tell

I often get questions about how much information authors should reveal to an agent in their query or cover letters. A very valid question, and one, unfortunately, with no right or wrong answer. As I’m sure you all know by now from reading my posts and those from other agents, preferences are long and varied about what we all want or prefer to see.

Recently, though, I was asked whether or not you should reveal to an agent how many books you have sitting under the bed or whether or not this is a first novel. I have actually had this discussion with other agents and have seen a variety of preferences. For me, though, I prefer not to know that this is a first novel. I also prefer not to know that this is your 12th and you haven’t yet been published. While it’s entirely reasonable that you could sell on your first or your twentieth novel, I think we all prefer that you land somewhere in between—say third or fourth. Or at least that’s what our little fantasy worlds tell us we want to hear.

I will admit that if I’m on the fence when reading a query letter and I come across “this is my first novel,” it’s more likely to lead to a rejection than not because while it’s true that some people have sold the first novel they ever wrote, more often than not the first novel gets stashed away never to be seen again. So why do I want to see it?

What I like to know, more than how many novels you’ve written, is what your connections are. I’d rather hear that you are a member of a writer’s organization or critique group. That shows me that you are putting the effort in to improve your writing and to learn about publishing.