One thing THE INTERN, in her mental flurry, forgot to mention about money:
When you're writing your query letter, you might think it's a good idea to tweak reality a bit and claim the book you published in 1993 made $1.3 million in its first year of publication.
"How could they ever find out the truth?" you think to yourself, as you jauntily spit on the envelope to seal it, sitting in your coldwater studio. "They'll be so impressed with my sales record, they'll jump on my book for sure!"
INTERN PITIES THE FOOL.
Part of THE INTERN's job is to sniff out people who lie in their cover letters. THE INTERN is a hungry wolf. Lies are a steaming pile of bacon. THE INTERN can smell lies from a mile away. She leaps on da bacon. Fool gets pitied, manuscript gets tossed out.
Publishers subscribe to a thing called BookScan (www.bookscan.com) which tracks the sales of books that are sold in bookstores. For every cover letter we get where the author has previously published books, we check the sales figures ourselves. Admittedly, BookScan doesn't track books not sold in stores—e.g. the books you sell out of the trunk of your beat-ass car—but it gives us a ballpark figure. We can find out how many copies of your book sold, and over what period of time—and believe me, 10,000 copies over a 15-year time period doesn't sound as impressive as 10,000 copies in the first month. But it's still something!
The point of quoting sales figures or previously published books in your query letter is to impress us with your track record. Just *having* a track record is a pretty good start—it's more than most authors have. If you published a book that bombed, don't try to make it sound like a best-seller—maybe you shouldn't even mention it. Or, you could acknowledge its bombness in a way that makes you look good.
But whatever you do, don't front, or we will smack you down faster than a mole in a paddle factory!