You have the power of life and death in your hands. Or should I say at your finger tips?
You can open the door to a bright new future or put a nail in your own coffin! I’m talking of course, about your query letter. Your query letter is an editor’s first impression of your writing (and we all know how important first impressions are). It is actually the first piece of work that you will submit to them. An editor will get a glimpse of your ability as a writer as they read your query letter. You may be saying to yourself
that I am overreacting.
This isn’t the important part. The article is the place where you must concentrate all of your efforts. This is just a query, right? Wrong! Editors see it much differently. They take query letters very seriously and so should you. Your query is your way of getting your foot in the door. A door that will either be flung wide open or perhaps shut and locked! You may be cheating yourself out of great writing assignments. Assignments that you would actually be perfect for, all because of a poor query letter.
I have received assignments solely on the content of my query. I have had editors tell me that they enjoyed reading my query letter so much that they could hardly wait to get to the actual article! Some have also shared with me experiences where the queries were so boring that they said they could not even imagine having to read anything more.
While it is important to keep it professional, it is also possible to still be interesting as well. Editors are people too (no matter how hard we find that to believe), and they love a good letter just as much as the rest of us. You can get a feel for the type of editor that you are dealing with by reading several issues of the publication that you would like to write for.
By doing this you will get to know the types of articles that this editor finds appealing. Often there is a certain niche that needs to be filled. If you notice a large amount of comical or easy-going pieces, then you may want to be slightly humorous in your query. Show your lighter side. If the stories seem to be cut and dry. And filled with facts and figures, your best bet is to be strictly business in this case.
There is a good chance that this editor is the no-nonsense type. Finding favor with an editor will not only increase your chance of being published but will also help you to get the honest unbiased feedback that you need to succeed. Even if the editor is not completely taken with the idea that you submit if he feels you have the talent and likes your style … he may point you in the right direction and give you the advice that you need to help you create the type of work that he is in need of. Possibly an avenue for future assignments as well as an opportunity for future publication.
Your query is your chance to grab them by their tails. It is the free sample, or taste if you
will, that will cause them to desire more! Give them something that will cause their mouths to water. Your query can be that aroma that reminds them that they are hungry. This is the time when you have their undivided attention. They are reading and examining your work intently. They are concentrating on you and you alone. Spark their curiosity.
Cause them to raise an eyebrow at you. Think of your query letter as a personal interview. Put your best face forward. What makes you interesting? What areas do you shine in? Why are you the perfect man (or woman) for the job? What you lack in experience can be made up by what you possess in talent. This is your chance to
wow them! Remember, you’ve got their attention … don’t lose it.
This also applies to publications that ask you to contact them for more information. I once got an assignment immediately because the editor said that she found my inquiry so fascinating that she knew the story must be even better! Put as much effort into your queries and inquiries as you do the actual article. Sell yourself.
Do what you do best to help you get what you want. You’re a writer, so write a query that is as interesting and exciting as that thriller you are working on. Be as passionate about getting assignments as you are when you are lost in the pages of your most recent love story. Remember, a successful query is the first step to being a successful writer. It’s as simple as this … if the sample is good they’ll want more.