According to the editors I interviewed, freelancers are irritating editors with lukewarm queries. Queries that sour an editor’s opinion of a writer can kill potential sales.
An Exemplary Query: The basic components of a solid query comprise a salutation to the editor by name, an introductory paragraph establishing familiarity with the publication, and the topic of the proposed article. The second section summarizes (tantalizingly) the gist of the article. Next come the author’s qualifications to write about the topic, and then relevant publishing credits are listed. A polite final line and signature round out the letter.
Editors would give a query containing the basic elements, as this one does, a thumbs up.
“Dear Francesca Kelly:
I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Tales from a Small Planet for three years. I feel that the attached essay, in Rich Text Format, about everything going hilariously wrong during a scuba diving expedition in Bali captures the right tone for your magazine.
As an expat living in Bali, I want to stress that this essay isn’t a tourist travelogue, but a real glimpse of what local life is like where I live. Using incidents from my own experience, I’ll show how foreigners can go hopelessly astray without someone local to help them.
Going Places, Destinations and Islands Ho! have published my articles.
I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.”
An actual query would also include the author’s first and last names and all contact information. These can be automatically inserted in e-mails with the signature function. “I’m always impressed when a writer provides several contact numbers and addresses,” an editor said.
…Furthermore: “Include your byline on the article you submit,” said an editor of a natural health magazine. “Don’t send me articles full of grammatical errors and misspellings,” another editor reminded authors.
“Nothing’s more refreshing for an editor than to read a query that takes him completely by surprise,” Betsy Lerner wrote in The Forest for the Trees: Editor’s Advice to Writers (www.booksnbytes.com/reviews/lerner_forestforthetrees.html).
A small magazine editor agreed. “I like a twist. I like to guess. I love surprises, especially when stories involve mundane topics.”
In How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters, John Wood wrote that queries should be professional, novel, provocative and creative, focused and customized. Authors, when querying, want to show that they are reliable and qualified.
Follow editors’ advice and their positive replies to your hot queries will grow.
Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”
When teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War
“Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.