**It is my duty to report that there is a new scourge sweeping our nation’s queries: people are saying they are a published author without providing (1) the publishing house and/or (2) the year it was published. Please be vigilant. This is a code orange.**
I’ve previously blogged about what to do if you don’t have publishing credits, but after yesterday’s seven hundred page dissertation on The Wire I thought I’d do more of a nuts and bolts post that encompasses everything publishing credity.
– As mentioned, if you have published a book, whether through a maintstream publisher or self-publisher: I need 1) the publisher and 2) the year, and this goes for every book you list. If it’s not there I’m just going to go look it up anyway, so might as well save me a trip to my local neighborhood Amazon.com.
– Self-published authors: I am sorry to say you are not a “published author” by the parlance of the industry, and should not use that term to describe yourself. “Published,” at least according to this publishing industry member’s reading of the term, means that an editor judged your work acceptable, paid you for it, and published it in physical book form. If you are self-published it is perfectly acceptable to say you are self-published, although you might look at this post for some tips on some of the things I look for in self-published authors.
– Publishing credits from journals and stuff: these should only be listed if they directly relate to your project. So, for instance, if you have a novel, it’s totally fine to list the literary magazines and journals where you have been published, even if it’s not a strict genre match. Some newspapery articles might be fine as well if they’re in the ballpark of your novel. But if you’re pitching a novel to me I really don’t need to know that you had articles published in, say, medical journals (unless obv. it relates to your project) or if you wrote a lot for your advertising agency once upon a time. Make sure it’s germane. Same (in the reverse) goes for nonfiction. But in the end I’d rather see no publishing credits than a list of things that have nothing to with your project.
– If you have a MFA: absolutely please mention it. However, be aware that while I’m sure you’re awesome, for some reason MFAs are notoriously bad queriers, and you should not assume that your MFA alone is a ticket to a partial request or more. You’re being held to the same query standards as the non-MFA crowd, although perhaps with a small bump. Wait… no… sto… DON’T TORCH YOUR DIPLOMA! YOU GOT TO WRITE FULL TIME FOR TWO YEARS!
– If you don’t have publishing credits: do not worry. They’re not necessary. The ranks of people who have been published without a single credit to their name are legion. Just say “This is my first novel” and say it proud. Don’t apologize, don’t spend two pages telling about how much you love to write. Heck, you could hate writing more than life itself and if your book is good I won’t even care. Whatever it takes you get the job done.
The most important thing to remember about publishing credits big and small is the focus should be on the project you are querying about, not on your credits. You could be the author of the Bhagavad Gita and I’d still be wondering what you’re working on now. Publishing credits can certainly boost a query, but it’s your description of the project you’re querying me about that is key.