What credentials should you put in your query letter?

At the end of a query letter, it’s important to write something about yourself. But…what do you write?

Some people write about where they got their college degrees from. Or perhaps how long they’ve been working on this manuscript. But is that necessary? Let’s find out!

Degrees (BA OR MFA)

Degrees are usually only necessary for nonfiction titles. For example, if you wrote a book on World War II, it would be helpful if you had a history degree. That would showcase your knowledge.

However, if you wrote a sci-fi book and wanted to talk about your English BA…that’s not as important. It doesn’t bring anything to the table that makes you stand out against other sci-fi writers.

Are MFAs essential to put down? Eh… Not as much. Maybe if you and the literary agent both went to the same university, you could bring that up as something you both have in common. But it’s not essential to mention having an MFA.

Social Media Following / Writer’s Platform

The more research I did on this part, the more it broke my heart.

I had heard before that having a writer’s platform is essential, especially when it comes to book sales. Bringing it up if you have one is key. But… Only if you have crazy numbers.

“It varies from platform to platform. Twitter followers carry less weight than newsletter subscribers. The general rule of thumb is that you wanna be at least into six figures. And I don’t just mean 100,000. It should be well into six figures. Ideally into seven figures.”

-Mike Harriot

Another agent I heard from at AWP mentioned that these numbers are not what makes or breaks your query. By this point in the query, the agent has a good sense of whether they’re going to pick up your book or not. However, having those larger numbers could help tilt your query over if it’s on the fence. It shows that people are interested in your work and will buy your book.

I have been told before that if you don’t have high numbers, don’t mention it at all. Saying, “I have 5,000 followers” could be seen as ignorant, because the numbers are not high enough.

But I’m there with you. The numbers seem impossible to reach. It takes years to build that kind of following. Start as soon as you can! Something is still better than nothing (even if you don’t put it on your query).

Prominent Publications

Yes! If you have been published before, mention it. Don’t spend forever talking about it, but a quick sentence or two is great.

Similarly, if you’ve gotten awards from any publications, mention those as well. Shows your work is worth reading.

Relevant Story / Similar Situation

This doesn’t help as much for fantasy, sci-fi, and bigger I-made-this-whole-thing-up-in-my-head stories. But if you experienced something similar to your story, it would be cool to mention. It shows you have some credentials to speak on the subject.

However, this is not one to mention often. I’ve been told by a literary agent before that if you can make it work and use it in the right voice, great. If not, leave it out.

Random facts about yourself

Please no. They got limited amount of time to read these. One of the agents I heard from said that she reads query letters at night, off the clock, during dinner. They don’t need to hear anything personal or random fun facts about you. Keep it out.

Above all

Sound confident. Even if you’re not, sell it. The agent doesn’t want to hear your insecurities. The “maybes” and the “mights” are to be left out. It makes you sound like you’re not ready.

However, don’t sound too proud by saying your book is the next Harry Potter. That’s not a promise you can keep.

I hope this helps! If you have any questions or thought of any other points to mention, leave a comment below!

Also, I have more posts about queries here.

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