One of Curtis Brown’s distinguished agents, Emilie Jacobsen, suggested a great blog topic to me the other day and I’m pleased to follow her lead.
The shrinking violets among us often lament that they hate to brag about their work in a query as the mere idea makes them palpitate and sweat. Well, you’re in luck! As Emmy pointed out to me the other day: you shouldn’t anyway.
Now, I want to qualify this. Bragging honestly about your personal qualifications and publishing credits is not only appropriate, it is appreciated. If you are the world’s foremost expert on alien monkey encounters, well, then I would like you to be upfront with me that you are the world’s foremost expert on alien monkey encounters.
But when it comes to describing the actual work in a query, we really don’t want to be told how great it is.
There’s a further qualification I’d like to make, which is that there is a sliver of a place for positive characterizations, such as describing a suspense novel as “fast paced,” although be very careful with these labels because it’s always better to show these qualities in the query rather than tell.
But when an author describes their work as “hilarious” or “amazing” or “great” or a “masterpiece” or “more gripping than THE DA VINCI CODE” or as “beautiful as Faulkner”… well, as Emmy said: “I’ll decide for myself, thanks.”
The rule of thumb on braggadocio: leave the reviews to the critics.