Piggybacking again off of Deb’s popular Frequently Asked Questions and the first part of 10 Popular Article Writing Questions, I’m also tackling query questions. If I miss one of your burning questions please let me know!
10. What is a query?
A query is like a sales letter aimed at the editors of a publication. It is used to pitch a specific article idea and yourself as a writer. Some liken it to a cover letter, but I believe there is a difference. A cover letter is interest in a specific job and pitches yourself to the hiring manager, a query letter has a narrower focus.
9. How do you write a query letter?
Carefully. A query letter is the opportunity to get your idea, name and writing technique in front of an editor. Give the same care as an article. Proofreading, active voice, a little marinating time before sending are all important, put your best foot forward.
8. Is a query letter necessary?
Always? Nothing is always. There are times when editors will approach you, or when a ‘formal’ query letter is not needed – usually after you have a ongoing, good working relationship with an editor or publication. Most of the time, a query letter is expected and required.
7. What does a query letter include?
A greeting (with the editor’s name spelled correctly), body (that includes idea and supporting information), clips and closing. Now, how you craft the query is the stuff of endless books, articles and blog posts. The best thing to do is to research the styles, taking ideas from established writers and find a style that works best for and the publication you are pitching. I favor the anecdote opening with supporting facts and abridged list of experts approach and while that works for consumer magazines particularly lifestyle magazines, it may not work for other publications.
6. Do I follow up after submitting? How long should I wait?
The great thing about querying in the age of the internet is the response to queries times are dramatically shorter than in the age of snail mail. The standard 4 to 6 weeks is more like 4 to 6 days, on the long end. Two weeks is long enough for a busy editor and their assistants to get through the usual backlog of emails, so if you haven’t heard from anyone by then, go ahead and follow up. Include the query again so the editor doesn’t have to go digging for the info and give them time to respond. There’s nothing wrong with being persistent, but stalking an editor won’t get you very far.
Tune in next Monday for 5-1 of Popular Query Questions and don’t forget 5-1 of 10 Popular Article Writing Questions this Friday!