Q is for Query
You may be asking yourself, “What is a query letter?” A query letter is kind of like sending a message to someone new on an online dating site. You craft a message to this new person telling him/her about yourself, trying to seem like your authentic self without seeming too creepy or freaking the other person out. Applying this professionally: You’re trying to tell this person about yourself without appearing too pushy, arrogant or unqualified.
Here’s five tips for crafting a query that will get you that first date (Oh, you thought I was done with that metaphor. Nope, we’re riding it until the wheels fall off. )
Tip 1: Do Research: When you’re first looking at a personals ad, you start by, well, reading it. You want to see if you have anything in common. The same method goes for sending letters to perspective magazines, publishers, editors, agents, etc whom you would send a query letter. Is this a match? Do your research. Look at their publications. Google has made the life of the writer easier. Then there’s also trade magazines, and reference books like Writer’s Market, can give you info. If your work won’t match their needs, don’t waste their time or yours.
Tip2: Personalize the letter: I’m not saying reveal all your personal business. Do you send out a stock message for your personal ads? If so, stop it, and don’t send out stock query letters either. Your research should have uncovered, who you needed to address your letter. You should also mention in your letter why your work would be a great fit with them, just like in a personals message you tell the person why you’d make a great match. *FYI: If you can’t find a person’s name via the internets, but you find a number-call the number. Ask who to send a query to about your particular topic. Taking this simple extra step will make your letter stand out. Plus, you may find they do not accept unsolicited queries, which again will save you time.*
Tip 3: Write a hook: Your letter to that potential special someone should start with something designed to perk their interest. You have to imagine the person is receiving tons of messages. How can you make yours stand out? With your query letter concentrate on selling your product. Snag her interest. Make him want to keep reading.
Tip 4: Tell them what you want: When you’re writing to someone on Match.com, OKCupid or wherever you tell that person what you’re trying to do. Are you hoping to eventually go on a date? Do you want to try chatting online? Are you just looking for a hookup? You tell the person, and hopefully by the research you’ve done, you know you have these similar intentions. In your query letter be specific with your intentions.
Tip 5: Make every word count: If it’s not going to potentially get that date, don’t mention it. Remember this is you trying to woo that person for the first time. Don’t waste your precious space telling the person you’re writing your query to that you know they don’t have a lot of time, or submitting article links to things you’ve written, but aren’t pertinent to the current topic. Make sure to tell them your market. (If you don’t know what market you work goes to, find out.) Choose your words thoughtfully.
Tip 6: Follow directions: Some people post they don’t respond to someone who doesn’t have a picture, or they don’t respond to someone who doesn’t have fully completed ad. So make sure you have what they want. In a query, they may want your entire manuscript, or just a couple chapters (entire article v summary, you get the point). They may not ask you to supply anything, but you can offer it.
These six tips aren’t the end-all, be-all of query letter writing, but it will get you on your way!
Do you have any tips or tricks you have learned about sending queries? If so, leave them in the comments below. And feel free to share this post.