For my next two posts, I’ve asked Dianne Butts to share from her more than 20 years of writing experience on how to write query letters. Dianne has over 250 published magazine articles, so she must be doing something right! I believe she has many tips and tidbits that can get you on the right path to conquering the query! Here’s Diane…
When I started freelancing, I found query letters very intimidating. I met writers who wouldn’t even submit to periodicals that required them. I knew that wasn’t good and would be a real detriment to my career, so I set out to master writing queries. Whether I’m a master at writing queries or not you’ll have to judge, but I know I’ve had many queries open doors for me to submit an article that was then accepted. And queries don’t intimidate me anymore.
Also, query writing is not just for magazine/periodical writers. If you want to write books, you’ll most likely need to write a query letter to open the doors for sending your book proposal. It’s not hard to tweak the suggestions below to fit your book. I hope the following points help you master query letters:
After you have a handle on what your target market wants, and after you have an idea to query about, you’ll need the following (if they apply to your project):
1. Personal note, if appropriate. Have you met the editor or been in contact? If so, kindly remind the editor of where you met and what you talked about.
2. Introduce your article or story. Grab the editor’s attention. If you’ve already worked hard on a wonderful opening for your article, use that.
3. Type of article. Is it a personal experience? Interview? A how-to? Mystery fiction? Briefly indicate what category your article fits into.
4. What, specifically, is it about? Use the one-sentence thesis statement you created for your article. Tantalize, but don’t give it all away. Example, if your article contains ten points, give your top three.
5. How is it organized? You might say, “In this article I will discuss…” and name your main points or subsections. Then, “For each section I will include one personal anecdote, a true story, and the lesson I learned.” Or, “In this article, I offer ten steps how to…”
6. Why you wrote it. How will this article benefit readers? Finish this sentence: “Through this article I hope to…” (inspire? educate? inform?)
7. What sidebars do you have to offer? Give the title(s) and word count(s) for any sidebars you wish to include.
8. If on theme, which one? If your article fits in with an upcoming theme the publication is planning, be sure to let the editor know.
9. If a seasonal piece, suggest when it might run. “This Christmas piece…” Or, “Although this article could run at any time, it might work well in a May issue for Mother’s Day or a June issue for Father’s Day.” Sometimes it helps to give the editor a suggestion for where to use it. Not that the editor doesn’t know where it might fit, but you may spark an idea he didn’t think about.
10. Your qualifications to write it. Not your writing credentials, but rather, what qualifies you to write the piece. For example. if your article’s on a medical issue, do you have a medical back ground?
Be sure to stop back Monday, March 8, when Dianne will finish her tips for query letter writing and offer advice on how to expertly target your query letters.
Dianne Butts has written for over 50 different Christian print magazines and seventeen books. If you’d like to learn more about writing query letters, consider Dianne’s pamphlet, “Conquering the Dreaded Query Letter,” available for $3.95 plus shipping at http://www.dianneebutts.com/conquering_the_dreaded_query_letter.htm.
Dianne also offers a free, monthly e-zine for writers, Dianne E. Butts About Writing. Subscribe at her website, www.DianneEButts.com. And, be sure to follow Dianne’s adventures and challenges in self-publishing her book at www.DeliverMeBook.blogspot.com.