diversity tips · do and don't · query problems

Why should YOU write this book?

Some agents want queries to say why you’re the best person to write this book.

I didn’t include this in my query guide because our agency doesn’t care. I assume you wrote this book because it was in your heart and brain and soul. I assume you researched, edited, checked, and composed the best book you could.

But some agents ask. So what does the question actually mean?

In a nonfiction query, it’s about your qualifications. “Why you?” asks what your expertise is. If you wrote a book on child development, are you a psychologist? Single mother? Pediatrician? Advocate? How long and where is your experience?

For memoirs, “why you?” means “why your life story?” It’s asking what the pertinent and relatable theme of your life is. You dated over 100 people; you spent 40 years making a living as a clown; you’re a queer who lived through the AIDS crisis. What about your story is different from everyone else’s? Why does it need to be told?

In fiction, the question is asking about your passion and your career. “Why should you write this book?” we ask, but what we mean is, “why did you write this book?”

We want the personal reasons. Your career is our career — our bread and butter and our creative passion. We believe, like our authors, their books are ones people need to read.

Why did you write it? Why this way? What is your favorite thing about it? What are your dreams for it? What kind of person and writer are you?

Suppose I wrote OUT ON GOOD BEHAVIOR (real author: Dahlia Adler, of whom I’m a fan!) and had to answer “why you?” in my query. I might say something like:

I’m passionate about queer issues and long to see more bi/pan women protagonists. I wrote Frankie how she is because I’m tired of culture demonizing women for liking sex: I hope she can show female sexuality is neither titillating nor dirty, simply human.

Why am I the best person to write it? Because this is what I’m passionate about, and this is what the book is about.

Your answer should be 1-2 sentences and goes among your book vitals and bio line. Longer answers are okay for non-narrative nonfiction, since your CV may not sum up in a few sentences.

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