Dianne Butts


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…

Dianne Butts

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 itNot 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.

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Today, I’d like to finish up my interview with writer, Dianne Butts, who’s been sharing from her expertise on writing query letters. Here’s Dianne…

Here are the final six pieces of information to include when writing queries:

11. The proposed length given in word count. If you’re querying a book, you could state word count or pages. Make sure your length is within the word count accepted by the publication/publisher.

12. Which rights are you offering? It is assumed you are offering first rights unless you state otherwise.  If your piece has been published before, and/or if you are offering the piece elsewhere at the same time, be sure to mention that it is a reprint and/or a simultaneous submission.

13. When it will be completed. Say, “I can send the article within two weeks of your request…” or whatever you can do. Give yourself plenty of time–writing always seems to take longer than we writers think it will!

14.   Your writing credits.  If you don’t have any publishing credits yet, you need not draw attention to that. If you have been published, give the editor an idea of how often and list a few of your finest credits.

15. Ask if you can send the manuscript.  “May I send you ‘Conquering the Dreaded Query Letter’?”

16. Close. Thank the editor for his or her time and consideration. You can say you look forward to hearing from them.

Other things to keep in mind when you query:

Keep your query to one page (even if sending by e-mail). In rare occasions you might go over one page, but chances are whatever you’re writing right now is not one of those rare occasions! Condense and edit your letter down to one page. (Without messing with the margins or font size!)  If you can’t edit your letter to one page, it may say to the editor that you can’t write concisely,  follow directions, or write to word counts.

When targeting your query letters:

Study the entry for the publication or publisher in a market guide, obtain the writers’ guidelines, and study sample copies of the periodical or the publisher’s catalog (often it’s online). Make sure what you want to send “fits” the publication/publisher. It’s glaringly obvious when writers don’t do this. Don’t submit to a market you’ve never seen or haven’t yet studied their guidelines, copies, or catalogs.

Doing your homework in this area will prove to the publisher that you have thoughtfully considered where you are sending your work, and will instantly put you above most of the submissions they receive.

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.