The Art of the Query Letter

Sunday, April 06, 2008
by LuAnn Womach

For freelance writers, the query letter is the element that either opens the door to the publishing world or slams the door shut without any warning. Writing a query is, in a sense, a balancing act between selling an idea without giving away too many details and selling yourself as a writer.

When I started taking my writing career seriously about 10 years ago, I think I subscribed to every writing newsletter I could get my hands on. I read them thoroughly and gleaned pertinent information that I believed was helping me with my queries. Sure, I'd land a few stories every now and then, but I wasn't establishing any consistency in bigger markets. Yes, I had a steady stream of assignments for regional magazines and newspapers, but something seemed amiss.

Last May, I took a leap of faith and left a full-time teaching career for the freelancer's life. I spent the first two months sending out three or four queries a week. Personally, I like Hope Clark's advice about keeping 13 queries in play. It's been pretty successful for me, too.

What really made the difference was a writing book I bought after reading a review. The book : The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell. I studied each letter and compared those queries that hooked an editor to the letters I had been writing. Now, I'm not saying the letters I was writing were bad, but they were lacking in passion for the subject.

Since reading the book, I've developed my own query style. And, it must be working. I've landed assignments in two national magazines. And hopefully, I'll land more!

As you write a query letter, remember that you need to show that you are insightful and have a genuine interest in the topic. Making personal connections should help you make a sale!


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