Things that make you go hmm…

….queries in which the author says they are published but do not list any specific credts, further complicated by the fact that nothing shows up under their name on Amazon, and a google search likewise yields no results. This happens more frequently than one would think it should, and is always vaguely puzzling.

32 responses to “Things that make you go hmm…

  1. I had a letter to the editor once…

    • …meaning, by implication, that the credit they don’t list isn’t a credit worth listing (at least in pursuit of publishing a novel)?

      • It’s possible that the person is just flaky, of course. But my suspicion is that “I’m published” is absolutely true, except that it’s work-for-hire documentation for a software company, or articles in my RWA chapter newsletter, or something like that.

    • Hey, yeah…
      I used to write the Elfquest comic all the time and had a handful of letters to the editor printed in the back….
      *goes to plump her cover letter*

  2. Maybe they just have a looser definition of ‘published’…
    Like, perhaps, greeting cards made on their home computer. 🙂

  3. – Work for Hire (technical writer, ghost writer, other corporate writer)
    – magazine/newspaper articles/stories (but why not mention clips then)
    – self-published
    – published under a pseudonym
    You’d think that an author querying you would make it easy for you to find what they published. You shouldn’t have to do Amazon and google seaches… and it sounds especially frustrating when it doesn’t turn up anything.

    • I often suspect it’s one of those things you’ve listed above, in which case it’s often not terribly useful for me to know the specifics anyway. If the credits were relevant to the novel they wish to get published, that would be another thing.

      • Good to have that confirmed. I have magazine publishing credits, almost all of them completely irrelevant to my chosen field of writing (most of them aren’t even fiction, although one was at least a ‘science’ article in a small-press SF mag). I figured it was far more embarrassing to have to list them and admit to having written that badly than to just claim I’d never been published.
        Okay, I might keep the SF mag one, even if the article was written in a tearing hurry as the printing presses were churning out the magazine behind me, after the ‘real’ article flaked; it lists me in the Locus list of published authors. But you don’t ever need or even want to know that my poem about a birdie was published in “Cricket, the Magazine for Children” when I was nine years old.

      • But adding one or two words could make it clear that you don’t have to google them, and without taking up much extra space in the query letter. For example, saying “I am a published technical writer” qualifies the type of publication, so that you don’t feel the need to look things up.
        On a tangential note… if a national newspaper interviewed me about my writing process while working on the first draft of the novel, would that be relevant to mention in a query letter?

  4. The words “big brass ones” come to mind. People really do this??

  5. I’ve been told that I could list myself as published, because several of the companies I’ve worked for have listed my name as Editor or Author on the texts. (Some companies don’t.) But I’ve never put the info on a query because I just couldn’t see any agent giving a damn that I have “GVSession Class Coding Styles” or “Operator’s Manual for Switch Design Administration” on my CV.
    Does “I got a poem in my college literary magazine” count as published? How about “I have a visit record of over 200,000 people reading a short story I posted on the web”?
    But post-work facetiousness aside, does the bewilderment bother you to the point that you toss the query when you’re unable to confirm the person’s claim?

    • I don’t toss the query (as in just throw it away?)…but this does tend to end up putting that author on equal footing with the query of someone who doesn’t claim any publication credits whatsoever. For all intents and purposes, there’s no difference and I can only assess them based on the information they give me.
      And I have to admit that being published in one’s school literary journal doesn’t hold as much weight as, say, being published in a professional magazine.

      • Which is why you will never hear me boasting about that acrostic poem in my elementary school journal. Really, I’m much prouder of the six-hundred page documentation on C++ coding for wireless systems. …Not.
        Okay, okay, enough with pestering you today. ;D

  6. I blush to confess I did that – mentioned previous publications, but they were under another name. I had to explain to the agent – and then wondered if he would think I had simply pitched on another authour at random. After all, there’s not THAT much in common between three starter level thrillers written for the EFL/ESL market, and a fantasy trilogy. Except, perhaps, a natural inclination for the trilogy form.
    And if I REALLY want to confuse people, my journalism was done under yet another name …

    • I’ve gotten some queries with some pretty esoteric and obscure credits in them. I don’t mind, even though my guidelines suggest only listing relevant credits, I believe. Basically, I just don’t see how it’s helpful in understanding the writer’s background if they only give generalities rather than specifics. On the other hand, I’ve gotten letters that have listed a lot of academia credits that aren’t in a field that has anything to do with the theme of their novel; that’s also perplexing.

      • In academia the culture allows you to publish your whole c.v. as proof of where you’ve been and who you are. Even if it’s not relevant. A lot of academics end up getting jobs unrelated to their field. I guess the thinking in a query would be, you’ll know who they are and what they’ve done, and there’s proof that they can put together a lot of prose.
        Refugee academic here. I get a surprising number of queries from academics asking me to help them get published, and so far none of them has been able to get far out of analytical mode to produce any kind of marketable fiction. I just tell them I’m a writer, not an editor or agent, and send them to the SFWA site. My favorites are the ones whose projects bear no relation whatsoever to anything I do–I mean, an academic tome on baseball? That’s a serious case of undone homework (not to be confused with unstrung harps).
        My alltime favorite was the professor from Vienna (he said) who was channeling a historian in the following of Alexander the Great…in what he claimed was authentic Greek (it wasn’t, it was a proto-Homeric mishmash)(Well, I do have those academic credentials, see). I sometimes wonder if his next venture was to found a religion.

        • Nothing against long C.V.s — in another life, I could have easily become an academia-addict myself. Sometimes it’s still tempting. But I don’t what I would do with a Ph.D. in some fascinating historical period or type of literature. Anyway, I guess sending them with a query is another example of possibly not doing enough homework, maybe.

          • Or not doing homework at all but assuming the way academia does things is The way.
            Which does not bode well for the ability of the writer to challenge assumptions, which is what good sf&f is about. Not to mention what it says about their study skills in general.

      • I’m guessing people are thinking something is better than nothing. But academic publishing doesn’t so much have to do with writing ability as it does with research ability, so it is pretty much irrelevant. I’m certainly not planning on including information about my master’s thesis in an query letters.

        • Well, perhaps not in every single case… I know at least one of my clients has a background in an era of history that comes in very handy with their fiction. And my under-graduate thesis was on H.P. Lovecraft, which some might consider relevant to the type of thing I represent now. (Though it had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do, of course, with my involvement in the Shadows Over Baker Street anthology. Nope.)

          • I did think about that after I posted. But my thesis was Gas Separation Properties of Faujasite-Type Zeolites. I haven’t thought of any saleable works of fiction to accompany it.

          • My master’s thesis was on Kantian relationships for artificial intelligences as demonstrated by the game of Risk. Never felt a story come out of it, but Catherine Asaro did ask me to read over her AI book before it went to press for any glaring errors. (FYI: The only one was a single commingling of heuristic and game-tree programming references.)

  7. I can assert with all confidence that should I ever get into a position where I’m ready to send you a query letter, you won’t find me claiming any publications I don’t actually have! Only thing of mine that’s seen print so far was a short story in a fanzine, and boy howdy does that Not Count. 🙂
    I saw Teresa Nielsen Hayden post about a site out on the web where someone was actually advising aspiring writers to claim to be published just to make themselves look better–so I’m not surprised that this happens. Many people are, distressingly, just like that.

    • Oh, yeah — I remember that post too. There were a bunch of bad ideas in that guy’s advice. Many of them involving dishonesty (great platform for the beginning of a relationship *sarcasm*). Anyway, I tend to believe they’re actually telling the truth, and just suppose that for one reason or another they didn’t include the information.

  8. So here’s a question:
    I have an article published on a Web site. I wasn’t paid for it; the Web site is hosted in my living room. The article is a silly humor piece on learning to mosh in a mosh pit at punk shows.
    My mom says this is unprofessional, and I should take my name off the article so that when someone like you Googles me when I send you a submission, punk rock moshing tips aren’t the first thing you see. I’m sort of torn, since it’s been sitting there for years – so tons of caches and unauthorized ‘stolen content’ copies of said article exist, so I’m not sure removing my name would help.
    Will agents and editors Google me frequently? Will they be prejudiced against me because I was a punk rocker in my ill-spent youth? What about the magazine credits to an activist queer magazine (that’s the second thing that you get when Googling me)? I’m not taking my name off of those, even if I could. But will my activist or punk past be a handicap in the respectable grown-up publishing world?
    I’m hoping that this is more like Mom complaining about my hair color (namely, Mom being a little old-fashioned) than Mom actually being right. But it would be nice to know.

    • I think your mileage will vary. I have no idea if any agent other than myself attempts to Google or Amazon search in cases where publication is mentioned but not elaborated upon. And I don’t know how everyone else would react to the credits you mention – some of them might be more old-fashioned than others. I’m going to fall back on an extrapolation of the paranthetical in my comment to and suggest that beyond even simple honesty, there’s no reason to be anything but yourself. Why would you want to work with an agent who can’t grok that anyway? (And let’s not talk about my own mis-spent youth….)

  9. Apropos of nothing
    I thought you might like this:
    A small celebration of Lovecraft Day

  10. As much as I’d like to beef up my resume, I’m not even going to both even mentioning my RPG credits in my query letter. Writing d20 adventures isn’t the same thing as authoring a novel, so I fail to see how mentioning that would make me more attractive to an agent. My query letter just tries to sell me on the merits of my manuscript. Perhaps that’s a bad idea, but at least I won’t seem desperate to impress.

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