Query Bio Mistakes

While googling my name to see if I ousted famous rodeo star of his search engine slots I ran across an ad for a dating service in my hometown.  On it were three pictures of local singles wanting to hook up with local lurkers lookers.

One pic was of a handsome guy dressed in fancy duds and was likely taken at his BFF’s wedding.  The only problem?  His left side was cut off at the elbow and a feminine arm circled his waist.  Yep, Dating Genius’s pick-up picture had another woman in it.  Barely, but still…

In my writing world, the pick-up picture is our query letter.  It’s our first, and sometimes only, chance we get to land a first date.

We should look good–polished and captivating.  Hot in our tux with our hair styled just right and a crooked grin that makes our whole face light up. 

It’s easy to spiff up our pitch (though some might disagree), and it’s a snap to provide details–42k word,  YA paranormal romance titled You Know You Wanna Read Me.

But sometimes we get tripped up by our bios.  We forget to photo shop our pictures and leave in little details that usually turn off potential dates.

Biography Paragraph Traps 

We’re too handsome for words: My grandmother says it’s the best book she’s ever read.  Ever.  And Granny is the most honest person I know.

We’re drooling like a black lab after pheasant scent: I just wrote the end yesterday and I just know you’ll love it as much as I do, so please read it today and I’ll get back to you tomorrow, oops, that’s me calling now.  TTFN.

We’re Freud’s couch patients: I would be eternally thankful if you would just humble yourself enough to read my lowly book which you probably won’t like anyway because it’s been rejected by every other agent in the world.  But here it is.  If you’re still interested.

We have bigger egos than Arnold Schwarzenegger has biceps: Listen here, Mr. Agent, this is the best book you will ever read.  If you pass on it, you’re missing out on millions.  Millions, I say.  And I won’t be back.

We put the proverbial sock in our trousers so we look better than we actually are: My poem, Willy the Worm, was published in our fourth grade keepsake book from Mrs. Robbins.  I also wrote a letter to the editor of our local farm newspaper about the gestation period of elephants.  Please consider my murder mystery which has no poetry, worms or elephants in it.

We have the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon Syndrome: My best friend’s, cousin’s, uncle’s dog was trained at the same facility as the dog owned by the next door neighbor of Suzanne Collins’ pool boy.  (Not that Suzanne even has a pool boy, but if she did, how cool would that be?  For me, not the agent.)

We’re hopelessly all brawn and no brain: Dude, call me.

We could play the leading role in a Stephen King movie: I noticed by the book on your nightstand that you like middle grade fiction.  And since your bathroom had an African theme, I can only assume that you will love my book which is set in the Serengeti.  Oh yeah, and all those old pictures in the photo albums beside your 60″ tv, the ones with your great grandma beside the horse?  Yeah, my novel has an old lady in it too.  And might I add that you looked hot at your sweet sixteen?  Anyway, for your convenience, I left my entire manuscript on your kitchen counter beside the fresh-baked cinnamon rolls (your favorite) and a pot of hazelnut coffee.  PS. I locked the door on my way out.

My advice to you is this: introduce yourself, simply and honestly with relevant information only

I’m an SCBWI member.  My article, “Into the Wild” was published in Boy’s Life (July 2010).  For the past seventeen years I have worked as a guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  Each summer we take at-risk kids on a two-week trip where they can learn life skills and gain self-esteem.  These experiences are the basis for my adventure novel, Tales of a Teenage Screw Up. 

I look forward to hearing from you,

Bob Good Bio 

What other bad bio mistakes can writers fall victim to?  If you’re brave enough to answer, have you every made any of the above?  I have! 

24 responses to “Query Bio Mistakes

  1. Well, I did admit that I was an ex-politician and a lawyer.

    • If only the rest of us had such awesome credentials to throw in our bios. Did you also mention your golf handicap? Or that you had a really awesome and memorable round?!?!?

      : )

      • Hah, you’re the only person I know who’d consider politician and lawyer to be admirable credentials.

      • I happen to know a fair number of attorneys and most are quite admirable, honest and hardworking. I have nothing but the strongest belief that you fit in that category. On the other hand, I don’t personally know any politicians…

        And hey, even convicts get better book deals than some of us little people. After all, their stint in the slammer would be much more informed than my version could ever be. Good, bad or indifferent, expertise in your field can be a key factor in attaining credibility.

        And, as an FYI, I have the utmost respect for Your Lawyership. Though now I might have to reconsider the kind words you’ve doled out regarding my manuscript snippets on AQ. You weren’t just being nice, were you? Trying to gain a potential sale?


  2. I have no idea what I’d say on mine…eek

    • Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying too much fluff. And unless we are writing nonfiction and need a platform, agents and editors are okay with great writing and great stories.

      A simple, “I look forward to hearing from you,” works just as well.

  3. I think I found AQ early enough that I didn’t make any hideous mistakes in my query. Whew, thank goodness. Great post.
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

    • Saved by the experiences of the rest of us! It’s nice that we can pass along our mistakes words of wisdom to others so they don’t have to repeat them.

      Oh well, I’m glad my flubs can benefit someone else : )

  4. Yup, I knew one agent wasn’t a great pick, but one of her authors suggested I query her anyway. I said as much in the query (duh). Might as well have gone with my first impulse and not queried!

  5. I’m not anywhere the querying stage yet, so I haven’t made any of these mistakes. And thanks to you and this awesome post, hopefully I’ll avoid these mistakes when I do start querying!

  6. I’ve thought about what to put for my bio long and hard, but I never think whatever I put down is relevant, so I’ve resigned to leaving it out. Of course, then I get scared that I will be rejected based on my lack of experience…

  7. I kept mine super short – it’s so stressful knowing how to do it well. Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  8. Just letting you know I’ve got an award for you on my blog, lol.

    • Thanks for the heads up and the award, which I’m sure will be wonderful. I’ll check it out tomorrow when I have some spare time. Currently my nephews and new baby niece are visiting. And as selfish as it sounds, holding a two week old baby rocks my world like nothing else. Even if they spit up on you…

  9. Mmm… the “bio” part on my query says only I use a pen-name and that I’ve been working on that world for a number of years (I write fantasy, so I’ve created my world)… is that enough? That I’m Italian should come out from the addy (and if it’s an e-query, I’d sign of adding Roma, Italy)…
    But I’m the best at summaries! 😉 (sometimes even my prose is too much bone and not enough meat, sigh)

  10. Haha Cat- I have to say this, I LOVE your sense of humor!!! 🙂
    Ah the query letter and sooo much pressure to look good! I guess the key is to keep the bio simple, professional and, you know, don’t call the agent every two seconds… Or don’t call them. Ever. 🙂

    (But I’d love to use that first line though… Because Granny? She is the most honest person ever haha)

    • Lua,

      The bio traps are endless! And if we don’t look on them as humorous, we would have to cry. Then honest Granny would have to boost our egos all over again.

  11. I did the sock thing. I listed every award, honorable mention and finalist position I had, going back about six years. I’ve cut those out now, and I think I’m left with a slick bio…I hope.

    • LOL, Barbara. We all fall victim to some kind of bio blitz in our lifetimes. The good news is that you’ve learned and aren’t STILL sending out those same queries!

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