The Shadow Blog (plus some random query advice)

by | Jan 30, 2007 | Query Letters | 11 comments

If you have found this blog, thanks for coming over! This blog is an offshoot of my Myspace blog, and while I will pretty much be posting the same things in both places they may be slightly different (sort of like those drawings where you have to spot the differences between the two pictures). If you have a Myspace page and prefer reading blogs there, please check out and the blog at

And now, just so that I didn’t completely waste your time on some shameless self-promotion, I thought I’d give some random query letter advice that I have been thinking about but haven’t figured out how to put in a proper blog.

– If you smoke, do not smoke around your query letters or prepare them at the library or something. There’s nothing quite like opening up a query letter that reeks of stale smoke to make me want to send it right back without reading it.

– If you have that weird spam filtering thing where it automatically sends an email back saying “to control spam I am approving senders,” etc. etc., turn it off when you are sending queries. My inbox is full enough as it is.

– I’m still getting tons of return-receipt e-mails. I know you want to know if the e-mail was spelled correctly and everything, but it’s so intrusive.

– Someone had a great question today — What should you put in the bio section of a query letter if you haven’t graduated from college and don’t have any writing accomplishments? Never fear. A lack of credentials is no impediment to finding an agent if you have written a good book. Credentials help, no doubt, but I really could care less about someone’s background if they’re written a great book. So in the bio section just say, “This is my first novel.” Do not send an agent a lengthy apology about how this is a first book and how you’re probably unqualified but you really like to write blah blah blah. Just act confident. “This is my first novel.”

– Please send me your questions!! I would love to tailor the blog to address the questions people are having or the issues you’d like to discuss, but I can’t do that if I don’t receive questions. So just send me a message or leave a comment about a topic you’re curious about and I’ll try and address it in a future post. Don’t be shy.


  1. Simon Haynes

    Hi Nathan – there’s one thing you need to set up on Blogger, and that’s word verification for comments. If you don’t, you’ll get a load of automated spam.


  2. Nathan Bransford

    Looking out for me as always, thanks so much, Simon!

  3. spyscribbler

    Good point about smoking! Someone was lit up in the laundromat the other day, as I was folding and hanging up my clothes. I couldn’t believe it. What was I supposed to do? Wash my clothes all over again?

    That’s what I had to do, daggonit!

  4. D.L. Rankin

    Hey, Nathan. Great, helpful query advice. Thanks for posting it. I do have a couple questions, though. Some people say yes, some people say no, but do you think writers should mention similar author/books to theirs in query letters? Also, what books have you read and enjoyed recently? Thanks for posting!

  5. Nathan Bransford

    Hi DL, thanks so much for writing, and great question. I do think that comparison titles can help give an agent a sense of your work, as long as you’re not comparing it to Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, or any other bestseller du jour. If it’s a more obscure (and apt) comparison, I think it shows that you know what’s out there, you’re well-read, and you’re aware of where your book fits in the market.

    Also, another way to do this would be to research an agent individually and flatter them by saying, “Since you represented X I thought you would enjoy my book.” The only exception to this would be if your book is very very similar to something an agent represents (say, a travel memoir to Mexico when the agent represents a bestselling travel memoir about Mexico), in which case you’d probably be better trying somewhere else. An agent probably isn’t going to represent two books that compete with one another.

    A book that I really enjoyed reading was THE LOOMING TOWER by Lawrence Wright, which is an account of Al Qaeda’s history and the events that led to 9/11. It’s really an incredible achievement.

    What about you? What have you enjoyed lately?

    Thanks again!

  6. Karen George

    Hi Nathan~

    I, too, have a blog and I was wondering if you had any advice about getting a blog published. I am a 31 year old 2-time breast cancer survivor and I kept a diary while I was going through treatment. I’m now posting my story on the web and I get a lot of traffic to my site. I’d like to publish my story when I’ve finished the blog, but I don’t know how I would go about contacting an agent. Any suggestions? (BTW: my website is

    Thank you~

    Karen George

  7. Nathan Bransford

    Thanks so much for the very good question, Karen. I’m going to compile some of the questions I’ve received recently and post a Q&A later in the day, which will hoepfully answer your question.

  8. Roaming Writer

    Interesting response to the comparison titles. I’ve heard both sides of that one and took it out of my queries just to be on the safe side. Thanks for the query advice.

  9. Anonymous

    Aaagh! Couldn’t care less. Couldn’t. Not could.

    Sorry. I’m okay now. Love the blog.

  10. Nathan Bransford

    Oops — you’re right. “Couldn’t care less….” “Couldn’t care less…”

    Now I’ll write it on the chalkboard 100 times.

  11. mikeysubrizi

    I wonder if nyc pollution sticks to the manuscript also? I’m gonna go buy a humidifier.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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