Querying with a Fun Fact

Thursday, May 16, 2024

My feline overlord.

I’ve been querying and pitching seriously for 5 or 6 months. I’m not sure how many I sent out, but the response was discouraging. There were no positive rejections. No “send me something else.” The only personal rejection told me that they had just signed something very similar to my idea. Sigh. 

Then I retook a class on pitching. The instructor is Amber Petty. Her idea is that you should be able to pull most magazine and website pitches together in a half hour or less. In her list of what should go into a pitch, she includes all of the standard things you see in a query letter (greeting, here’s my idea, here is how I’m going to approach it, here is a bit about me and where my work has sold). 

Then she adds something different. She recommends ending with an interesting fact about yourself. “I pitch article ideas from my office in a 200-year-old farmhouse.” “When I’m not writing, I take my watercolors and create urban sketches around Boston.” Her reasoning for this is that you never know what it is that will grab an editor’s attention. She’s had people turn down her pitch but ask her to write a piece somehow related to her interesting fact.

I have never been able to bring myself to include something like this. I just . . . no! I’m from the Midwest. I’m Presbyterian! We do things just so and that does not include willy nilly touchy feely irrelevant facts tacked onto the end of a pitch letter. 

I’m sorry! It just doesn’t. 

As I was working up my most recent batch of queries, I researched the various agents as I always do. I was reading about one potential agent on The Manuscript Wish List. After giving information about the types of manuscripts she is looking for, she had a paragraph labeled “Fun Facts about Me.” Among the various facts was something about the demanding cat who holds her prisoner. 

I glanced again at the types of manuscripts that she wants. My book is about mountain lions from their evolution to life in the suburbs and cities. It is for an early middle grade audience and very science oriented. Her manuscript interests circled around this but didn’t overlap it. She wants middle grade nonfiction. She wants nonfiction, science-oriented picture books. 

I thought that I should probably keep looking but something kept bringing me back to this listing. Before I could change my mind again, I prepped my query letter and sample pages. What about that interesting fact? Should I include it at the end? I decided against it. 

Instead, I opened with: I laughed out loud when I saw your page at Manuscript Wish List. Like you, I am captive of a feline overlord. Newton demands frequent brushing and chin scratches. Then I moved on to discuss the manuscript. 

As long as I was being bold, I felt that I should admit that I knew it wasn’t quite what she was looking for. I was glad to see that you like STEM and STEAM and hope you will be interested in The Mountain Lion even though it is for a young middle grade audience. 

Amber Petty may be on to something. This was the first query that brought a request for a full. Even if it doesn’t bring a contract, it got her attention. We’re conversing. If she doesn’t want this, maybe she’ll want something else. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of 50 books for young readers.  
  • To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.  
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She is also the instructor for 3 WOW classes which begin again on June 3, 2024. She teaches:


Jodi Webb said...


I've never heard the advice about adding a fun fact. I too, come from a reserved, "let's be professional" background. But I glanced over a few of my pitches and find that, the more passionate I am about a subject the more often a personal fact spills into my query but usually they are related to the subject of the article. Maybe I'll try a few random fun facts about me. I agree, it does feel a little...scary.

Renee Roberson said...

Sue--The pitching class sounds great! How many of us labor for hours or even days over one single query? I like that Amber's approach is writing a query in 30 minutes or less because it gives you less time to talk yourself out of sending something. I also agree with adding personality into queries--that's what always piqued my interest when I was a magazine editor. I have no doubt your funny cat comment caught the agent's attention! Yay for a manuscript request!

And I love, love, love The Manuscript Wish List. I came across an agent there who talked about her love for all things Taylor Swift. I started off my query letter to this agent mentioning which TS song I played on repeat during my novel revisions--crossing my fingers it works!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Jodi,
I'm like you. Fun facts tend to be related to my query. And this was . . . sort of. But not as tightly as I usually do it. This was closer to how I normally write the author bio for a book.

Hi Renee,
Good insight! Fingers crossed for your query!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Helpful post, Sue! I always add some personal facts to my bio, and I love it when writers do that in queries! Your intro is very personable, which exudes confidence. I think it's a brilliant idea, and congrats on the full request! As much as we hate to admit it, the agent/editor/publisher is also looking at the person, not just the work. It's like any job... who would you want to work with? Someone you like! Personality goes a long way. I have no doubt if you keep trying this fun fact idea, whether in your intro or bio, you'll get more requests. Great tip. :)

Good luck, Renee! I'm sure she'll love hearing that. :)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Where did my response to Ang go? This is what happens when you try to comment on the road. I used to be really good at adding personal facts. But I think at this point I tend to write more about my published work and less about me. This has been a lesson!

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