April 12, 2016

Tunnel of Dreaded Query Letter-Ten Secrets Through It

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine

Unavoidable for some writers. However, they are a necessary “evil”. A great many authors do not particularly care for this end of the process. We can understand those feelings.

An author friend of mine spent the better part of four months, researching where and who to send a query (in their genre). As of this writing, they’ve emailed and mailed out fifty-five query letters. Ten recipients have responded. Four of the ten have an interest in seeing more. Hard work? Yes. Nevertheless, it does pay off.

Hearing this from my friend, I decided to research the best way to write a query letter. To find out, what works and what doesn’t. Right up front I found out no one, I mean no one wants a long, drawn out query letter. Brief is the number one preference. A two and three page query is a no-no.

I also found out that many authors send a query letter with the first paragraph, the opening, containing their credentials. These consisted of their education, publications they were in, title of articles and list of books if published.

While that is of interest to an editor, it is not the first thing that will get their attention. When you put this first it sounds like you’re looking for a job with their company.

Agents and editors read the first paragraph to see if they would have an interest in your subject for an article and/or story. They look to see if it would fit their publication and if it would interest their readers. If it piques their interest, they will read the rest of the query.

Some writers already know how to right a proper query; yet there are writers who aren’t sure of the best way. I hope this information helps them create the query needed to present themselves in the best light and get their articles/stories published.

Ten Query Nuggets:

1.)             Always put the full name and address of your contact person. Why is that important?

Because if you don’t, odds are that query may just wind up in file 13.

Where does your name go and where does the contact person’s name go?

Your name and address goes to the top of the page, right hand side.

The contact person’s name and address goes on the left hand side. (If they have a title, use it.)

EX:                                                                                          Jane Doe
                                                                                             1234 Appleway
                                                                                                 Heaven, Mind USA
John Smith, Editor
Star 1 Publishing Company
4567 Push Way
Elevator, State USA

  Note: If emailing your query, you can put your name and address at the bottom or keep it at the top.

  2).      Be sure you are familiar with the magazine before you send an article.
         Read their submission guidelines. Read one of their magazines to get a
flavor of the types of articles and stories used.

3).      Spend time on your ‘Opening Sentence’ and first paragraph. Why?

Because they are the most important. What you say, must grab the agent/editors attention. Don’t make the first paragraph longer than necessary.

4.)        In the second paragraph describe the article with who, what, why, etc.
            You want them to know what the article is about, why the article fits their
            publication and will interest their readers.

5.)        The next paragraph, establish your credibility. List two or three publications you’ve written articles and/or stories for but don’t include an entire list. You can list experiences with the subject and your degree if it pertains to writing. Your job here is to sell them on why you can write this article.

6.)        It’s time to end the query letter. You can let them know how long it will take to write your article but little else.

7.)        End on a positive note by telling the person you look forward to hearing from them. If you are mailing a query letter, be sure and stick a self-addressed stamped envelope in for their convenience to reply. It’s only polite and lets them know you are expecting to hear from them.

8.)        Check each query letter you write making sure it is correct in spelling and

9)         Keep a list of the name of the editor, magazine and publishing company you sent a query letter. We also recommend you keep a copy of the query letter you sent. Then as you get a response, put an x by that person and keep their response. (This is for future use.)

10)    Remember, this query letter is the first interaction this person will have with you. You want to make a good impression with a great introduction.

Don’t make your query letter complex; keep it 
simple and easy reading.

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