At some point, writers who are dedicated and diligent encounter a fantastic problem of the writing life: What is the best way to organize the publication credits in a professional writing bio? While each writer will have to make his or her own decisions based on personal preferences and goals, we at Writer’s Relief can offer some answers to common questions about publishing credits.
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What is the best order for publishing credits?
There are two schools of thought here. You can order your list of published works in alphabetical order. Or you can list them in order of reputation (so your most prestigious credentials come first). You can also choose a mix of these two notions as well, leading off with The New Yorker and The Writer, and then moving on to list others in alphabetical order.
There’s really no wrong answer here; it’s a personal choice. Some writers prefer the orderly and organized approach to listing credits. Others like their most important credits listed first.
Does it help to list “smaller” publishing credentials in a cover or query letter?
While some writers opt to leave their “smaller” publishing credits out of their query and cover letters, we recommend that writers consider the ramifications carefully before making such omissions.
While it’s true that tiny, obscure literary journals may not do very much for creative writers who have publications in big-time magazines like Tin House or The Paris Review, most writers tend to have a mix of mid-range journals in their publishing bio. When that’s the case, listing those “smaller” publications can help for a number of reasons.
The community of editors and volunteers who run most of the literary journals in the United States tends to be very close-knit. If an editor at Journal A sees that a friend who recently started the small but promising Journal B published your work, that editor may be more inclined to give your work a little extra TLC.
Once you’ve had your work published in highly significant journals or with major publishers, then you might consider leaving off some of those smaller credits. However, remember that listing your many publishing credits—and the range of journals that you’ve been published in—demonstrates that you are more than just a hobbyist. If a credit is reputable, it certainly won’t hurt you. It could even help you—but not if you leave it out.
One final note: Sometimes writers are uncertain about whether or not to include a particular credit in their bio. Be careful that you’re not listing disreputable poetry contests in your bio. Also, learn more about when to include your self-publishing and/or fan fiction credits in your cover and query letters.
Wish you had better publishing credits in your bio? This will help: No Publishing Credits? Get Publishing Credentials: How To Build Up Your Writing Bio Super Fast.
What is the cutoff for listing publishing credits? How many is too many?
Because so many of our clients are great writers who have been submitting regularly for years, some writers we work with have well over a hundred publication credits. At a certain point, it becomes necessary to trim credits from your query and cover letters.
Every writer will have a different idea about what constitutes too many credits and what constitutes too few. Our Review Board has seen some bios that list only a credit or two (even though it seems the writer probably has many more). And other bios list everything, all the way down to the very first poem that a writer had published in a middle school literary magazine.
Our authors who are extremely well-published will sometimes write: “My work has appeared in dozens of literary journals and magazines,” and then they will list those journals that they are particularly fond of, are highly reputable, or garnered some kind of award.
If there are no rules for what is too little or too much, how will I know if my bio is strong?
The key is finding the right number for you, a number that makes you look accomplished but not egotistical. At Writer’s Relief, we guide our clients to make good choices about what to include in their bios and what to leave out. Here is a working mission statement for a professional writing bio:
To demonstrate dedication to craft, as well as success, without going overboard or offering too little information.
Quiet confidence and accuracy—with no reaching or inflating—make for a strong bio. Read more: Your Professional Bio: Query Letter And Cover Letter Tips For Writers.
NOTE: OPEN CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS, limited-time only. Our Review Board is reading now! Send your poems, stories, essays, and book projects for consideration (writers join our Full Service by invitation only). If your writing is strong, we can ease your burden of tedious research and submissions to literary agents and editors!