How To Cite Writing Credentials (when you have none)

What are writing credentials?

Writing credentials are a paragraph or blurb that accompany a submission and include education, professional memberships, writing community activities, and what you’ve had published.

This is contest season, and grant application season, and it’s always submission season, so what do you do if you get to the “where I’ve been published” part of a query and your answer is zilch?

You be honest–and say nothing.

There is no shame in being unpublished. It means you are a new writer, or new to submitting, or you have not yet matched the right story to the right publication. Yes, it may help move your submission to the top of the heap if you have some impressive credentials, but if you don’t, you don’t, and trying to write around that will not be helpful.

So tell the truth. Say nothing about prior publications. You can, if you need a segue, use a line like, “This is my first submission to Printer’s Ink Quarterly.” If I’m an editor or first reader, this tells me you’ve never submitted to us before, and nothing more.

What not to do? Try to mask or cover the publication hole with a cringe-worthy credential. Such as,

~ My grandson really loved this story. (Is your grandson an editor/agent? If not, who cares if he likes it your story. He’s your grandson; you probably gave him cookies while reading the story, so of course he loved it!)

~ I’ve been writing stories since I was five years old. (Okay. That’s nice. Except this is not the Welcome page of your blog.)

~ This is my first submission ever, and an acceptance from you will set me on the path of a  successful writing career. (Wait a minute. Your career path is based on this one submission that I hold in my hand? So if I reject it and you feel like a failure, it’s my fault?)

~ I have a stack of rejections so I hope this is the one to break my unlucky streak! (Please don’t tell this to anyone. You do not want to be Sad Sack, the Writer.)

A query or application is a business proposition. Consider it like a job application. Do you include on your job application “I’ve never held a job before”? No. You leave that part of it blank. The person reading it will figure it out.

This is what a paragraph with no writing credentials may look like:

~ I became interested in beekeeping while working on a honey farm. This story grew out of those experiences.

~ I am a member of Sisters in Crime and a monthly critique group.

~ This is my first submission to Printer’s Ink Quarterly. I appreciate your consideration.

Some things are simple. If you keep it so, you can’t mess it up.


5 thoughts on “How To Cite Writing Credentials (when you have none)

  1. What about online magazines and blog posts Ramona? I’m working hard not only to be an online presence on my own site, but on others too. Is it a mistake to mention those?


    1. Pamela, if your work has been accepted by and published in an online magazine, that’s a publication credit. You might write is as “my story, PAMELA”S STORY, appeared in ONLINE MAGAZINE NAME in January.”

      For a blog, that’s a different thing, IMO. Anyone can put up a blog. If you contribute regularly to a blog or group blog, that would be great to mention as it shows you are involved in the writing community in a regular basis. But don’t say you’ve been “published” in YXZ blog.


      1. Ah… got it. There’s a difference I see. Good.

        Something I’ve read by an agent on twitter is that when they consider your work, they go online to check out your presence and what you have to say, what you’ve written on different sites. But I see what you’re saying here: there’s a difference between a presence on a blog, vs. being accepted by an online publication.


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