Class Notes: How To Write An Effective Query Letter That Will Get You Published

For novice and professional writers alike, getting your writing published is a top priority.

A query is an initial pitch to an editor about your writing piece. Think of it as a cover letter that precedes your resume. Arguably, you should be spending as much time on your writing piece as you do your query letter, since that determines whether you get to publish your work.

Know that you know what a query letter is and why it is important, let’s delve deep into how to write an effective one.

Make a Rough Template

Depending on where the query letter is being sent to and what you plan on writing about, it’s important to format your query letter in a way that allows for efficiency and effectiveness.

Here are the following elements to consider when composing your query letter:

  • Your contact information
  • A working title
  • Projected word count
  • Relevant biographical information that proves you are qualified
  • What kind of research you will conduct
  • How (and where) your piece will be incorporated into the publication
  • Mention your familiarity with the publication
  • A professional typeface (Times New Roman, Courier) and font size (10 to 12 point type)
  • One single-spaced page.

How you write your query letter is ultimately up to you. There is no universally accepted formula as far as I’m aware. As long as you integrate your personality and enthusiasm, feel free to get started on a query letter or two.

Follow Instructions

If there is a name to write to, be sure to address that person by name. If there is a specific topic that they are looking for, do the necessary research and planning before submitting a query letter. Editors and agents are busy people, so the last thing they want to deal with is a poorly executed query letter written by a writer who can’t follow instructions.

First impressions are everything. Whenever you see a call for articles, jot down all the guidelines that are posted. Adjust your query letters to the specific blog or person that you are writing to. Although a query letter is supposed to be one page, keep track of the word count that they are suggesting. Even though some creative rules can be broken for the sake of art, it’s important to remain within the boundaries when sending a query letter.

Focus on the Benefits

A query letter is a CTA (call-to-action). Your main goal is to convince the editor or agent why they should consider you as a writer. Confidence is key. Don’t assume that the person that you’re writing to will automatically accept your idea. Think about why someone should choose your idea over others. There’s plenty of other writers vying for your spot, so your query letter must present the benefits that your piece will bring to the publication.

Will it bring in more readers? Is it introducing something new and unique? Can it help the readers become better at their craft? Your query letter should answer these questions and many more that the editor or agent may be thinking about.

No Filler

Make the headline catchy. Delete the lines that you think are clever, but are simply filling up space. Provide a brief summary of the idea you’re submitting without adding superfluous details. Be clear in how you will write the piece and what you hope to accomplish while writing it. Mention any literary accomplishments, educational qualifications, and previous publishing experience. The fewer words you use to convey your point, the more likely your query letter will be accepted.

How (and When) To Follow-Up

When you press send, the next challenge is the waiting phase. There should be a reported response time in the submission guidelines. It’s important to wait until after the reported response time before sending a follow-up email. In the e-mail, being polite and professional is imperative. Describe the original query that you previously sent, the date it was sent, and ask if it was received or in the process of consideration.

If you don’t receive a response on time, there may be some factors at play. People may forget to respond in a timely manner. Staff changes and certain busy periods of the year can cause a delay. Regardless of the situation, it’s important to remain calm. It may feel like forever, but being patient is a part of the publishing process.

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