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How Much to Reveal in Your Query

One of the biggest questions querying authors obsess over is how much you should, or need to, reveal to an agent.

A comment on Social Media Tips for Authors, asks,

I did have an agent represent my first book which was not picked up by a publisher and is now on Kindle. Is this something to mention in a query (obviously, I just mean the “book on Kindle” part 🙂  )? In other words, does it work (1) for or (2) against you, or (3) it doesn’t matter either way? Since the book is a political satire, I’m also planning a giveaway before elections. Is this a helpful strategy toward establishing a social media presence/catching the eye of an agent, or not?

My one reminder is that Google exists. If an agent is truly interested in you and your work she is going to head to Google, often even before she finishes the manuscript. Pretending you’ve never published before, or conveniently leaving out the name of the publisher, will not help you keep a secret.

A previously self-published book won’t likely helps or hurt you. Great sales can help, a bad book can hurt. In the end, most agents will judge the book they have in front of them first.

As for whether a giveaway will catch the eye of an agent, I’d say it’s a long shot. The best way to grab an agent is to write a great query and a better next book.

Good luck!

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5 comments

  1. At the time I finished my book, I read a NYT article touting the virtues of self-publishing on Kindle. Sadly, I tried that route, having absolutely no clue about marketing/promotion. I think my book sold ten copies, probably all to family and friends. I don’t know if this is the market’s true negative commentary on its content or if virtually no one ever saw it (which, I suppose, is a negative commentary in and of itself).

    After recently finding your blog and videos, I realized what a mistake I had made in testing the waters for my book at KDP instead of attempting what seemed the more intimidating task of seeking agency representation. KDP, it seems, is the kiss of death for traditional publishing aspirations unless the book has sold thousands of copies.

    I feel as though I never gave my book a fair chance in the real publishing world, and I should at least write my best possible query letters on its behalf. However, if I understand your advice, it seems that I should lay the book aside and immediately start work on a new project.

    But, darn it, I still believe in the book. Is it truly hopeless to query?
    Thank you for any advice and for posting all the extremely educational material for new authors!

  2. Thank you, Jessica! Bravely onward, then. I’ve been want to try writing in another genre. Sounds like the perfect time!

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