Well, have you? Huh? Huh? Have you sent out your first query letter yet?
Remember a few weeks ago, we were talking about find publications that would be a good fit for your writing? If you’re a little foggy on what we talked about, you can read those posts, Build a Platform in 30 Days or Less and Freelance Yourself Off the Fence and then come back. I would say we’ll wait for you, but come on now, this is a blog – it’s not like this post is going to disappear…
If you haven’t found just the right publications, that’s okay. Keep looking. There are thousands upon thousands of publications (both print and online) out there. You’re sure to find the right fit. Just keep looking. In the meantime, let’s talk about your query letter.
Query letters are a short introduction to you & your piece, with a call to action for the reader. When we’re talking about query letters for articles, the call to action is getting the editor interested in publishing your piece. When we’re talking about query letters for your manuscript, the call to action is getting the publisher to request more information (such as sample chapters or the full manuscript.) Today, let’s keep it simple and just focus on query letters for articles.
Before you draft your query, check the guidelines for the publication you’re considering. Do they ask for queries with or without the full article? Do they want you to submit your query via email or snail mail? If they want it submitted via email, do they accept attachments (most people won’t open attachments from senders they don’t know) or require a specific subject line for the email?
Pay attention to the details in the publication’s guidelines! Editors receive hundreds of submissions. Not following directions is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get your query on a direct path to the trash pile rather than the slush pile.
Now as for the actual letter itself, I could go on and on about what you should write, what you shouldn’t. I could write for days about it. And it could all be wrong, depending on the editor.
There’s no surefire formula.
There’s no template you can use.
There are no steadfast rules.
Each editor has their quirks – things that irritate them, things that bias them towards or against an unknown writer. There’s no way to predict that, so there’s no way to say what absolutely will or won’t work.
But there are a few tips to keep in mind.
I could go more in-depth on writing query letters. Like I said, I could write for days – and it might still all be wrong for the editor you query. But if you need more info, check out these sources:
The Rules of Writing a Query Letter I love Robert’s take on query letters. As a real, working freelance writer, he speaks from experience.
How to Write a Successful Query from Writing World
How to Write a Query Letter from PoeWar – this is an older post, but still good info to consider.
Successful Queries by Chuck Sambuchino – this series of posts highlights successful queries written for manuscripts, but it also gives feedback from the agents who accepted those queries and what hooked them. Might give you a little insight into the minds of folks on the “other side” of the publishing industry – the gatekeepers who stand between you and getting published.
Just keep in mind, you can read all of this information, draft what you think to be the perfect query letter – and still get rejected. Don’t put so much time, faith, and effort into researching what will make your query letter perfect. There’s no such thing as a perfect query.
If you want that kind of information, you’ll have to ask the editor to whom you’re querying. They’re the only ones who can tell you what the perfect query to hook them might be…and if you can get them to tell you that? I’ll buy you dinner at the nicest restaurant in town.