I just critiqued a query letter and answered a few questions about the credentials paragraph. So I wrote this article, which originally was published on Suite 101.
Make Your Bio Powerful and Informative
Here are a few tips to make the bio section of a query letter as good as it can be.
An important part of query letters is the credential or bio paragraph. It should do two things:
1) Let the editor or agent know why you are qualified to write the novel and its topics
2) Let the editor or agent know that you have publishing credits and writing connections to show you’re not inexperienced in the publishing industry.
Show You Are Qualified
A writer should show that they are qualified to write a novel’s settings, issues, themes, or character professions.
If the novel is about firefighters, a bio should mention the writer is the son of a firefighter or married to one, or is a firefighter himself.
If the novel is set in the Michigan upper peninsula, the writer should mention his/her connection to the area or the extensive research done for the novel.
If the novel is about a couple dealing with miscarriage, the writer should mention his/her own experience with miscarriage (personal or through a friend/relative) or their involvement in a support group for couples who have had miscarriages.
List Writing Credits, Even If Unpaid
Writing for free online or for local print productions is one of the best ways to gain easy, legitimate writing credits. Make sure you list all the writing you’ve done, whether for ezines, websites, blogs (not your own), your church newsletter, a local paper, or local journals.
If you can write articles that pertain to the novel’s themes, settings, issues, etc., even better. For example, if your novel is about miscarriage, maybe you can write a short encouraging blog post on a website offering support and information for couples who have had miscarriages—that’s a legitimate writing credit, since the website is not just about you (like a blog would be) and/or is not your own website.
Even if your publishing credits don’t pertain to your novel (like writing a column for your church newsletter), they are still publishing credits you should list in your query letter because it shows you are used to working with others in a writing capacity, you are used to meeting deadlines, used to proofing your work, etc.
List Organizations and Online Communities
A writer’s involvement in a writing organization or online community shows that the writer has resources to familiarize them with the publishing industry. Writing organizations can be found for any genre, and many are inexpensive or free. Some are a bit pricey (like Romance Writers of America) but are typically worth the cost of membership because of the wide variety of online classes and email loops available.
A writer can also be involved in an organization or community that relates to the subject of the novel. For example, a writer who writes Regency-era novels can list that she belongs to several Regency historical organizations or forum board communities.
If you don’t belong to organizations, or have writing credits, then it’s easy to acquire them. Look for opportunities to write for free online, and research appropriate organizations you can join.