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Suggestions For Writing Successful Query Letters
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Most published writers will admit that there is no secret formula for writing a winning query letter, however, many professionals can share some basic suggestions to help new writers formulate a query that will sell their story idea.
I can think of four simple guidelines to follow for building good query letters.
1) Capture The Editor's Attention
You must develop original ideas that will stimulate editors almost immediately. Proposals have to provide something out of the ordinary, a unique angle, a new approach or a different view of the common, over-publicized topics that editors and readers are tired of seeing.
Think about how your article can offer innovative insight, inspiring material, or contrasting views of well-worn subjects. You probably have less than a minute to spark the interest of most editors, who receive hundreds of similar pitches every week. Make yours stand out from the rest!
2) Be Concise But Explicit
Eliminate fluff. Use action verbs and effective nouns to explain exactly why your idea will appeal to their readers and add quality to their publication. Give adequate details without going overboard.
Tell the editor why you want to write the article, why he should care about your topic and how you plan to deliver your completed work (estimated deadline and approximate word count etc.)
3) Know The Market
You can spend hours constructing the perfect query letter, but if you send it to the wrong publication, your efforts will probably be wasted and your idea rejected.
The most obvious way to gain knowledge of any market - that many writers may overlook - is to read the publication. I mean really read it. Don't just browse article titles or skim the written words. Spend some serious time reading what other writers have written and learning about what the readers seem to prefer.
Most publications will provide writers with printed submission guidelines. Request this information and follow it completely. Some editors will toss a query in the trash immediately if it is not written according to their specified format or if it does not include the information required for submission.
4) Be Professional
Consider your competition. If an editor opens one envelope that contains a hand-written, sloppy, wrinkled letter on yellow notebook paper and another envelope that has a type-written, clean, easy to read letter printed on quality paper, it's not difficult to figure out which letter will be more impressive and more likely to appeal to the editor.
It's just like going on an interview - you never get a second chance to make a first impression!
Crafting a Creative Query
Paragraph One - The Hook
Your first sentence counts more than you can imagine. Make it informative, interesting, and honest!
1 - Start with a question that will fascinate the editor so much that she feels the need to read on just to find out your answer. (How many professional anglers catch hypodermic needles and other fishy items in their nets each week?)
2 - Use a shocking or uncommon statistic to lure the editor into your letter. (Although many national news sources reported that suicide among teenage girls increased dramatically by more than 35% last year, did you know that more than half of those 5,000 young girls were raised without a father for most of their childhood?)
Paragraph Two - The Specifics
Who cares about your idea? Who will be effected by your article? What will your story reveal that hasn't already been reported? Why is your idea perfect for this particular publication? When can you deliver it? How many words? Who will you interview? What about background, statistics, historical references? Research your topic. Give them the facts accurately, quickly, honestly and persuasively.
Paragraph Three - Your Credentials
Why are you the person to write this article? Where have your writings been published in the past? What similar subjects have you written about? What makes you different, special, unique?
Paragraph Four - The Closing
Thank the editors. Suggest a follow-up contact time. Offer to provide any further details, answer their questions or clarify your query at their convenience. Thank them again and tell them how much you look forward to talking with them within the next two weeks - month - whatever you feel is appropriate (refer to their submission guidelines for tips on this information - they usually provide writers with an estimated response time.)
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