The Keys to a Good Query

Because publishers are inundated with thousands of manuscripts, most prefer to receive a query letter instead of your complete manuscript. The purpose of a query letter is to introduce yourself and your story or article. In this letter, you tell the length of your piece, the age group it is intended for, a BRIEF summary of your story, and any qualifications you have for writing the story.

Basically, a query letter is your chance to sell yourself and your work to the publishers. If they don't like your query, they won't request to see your story, and you've saved yourself a lot of time, postage, and disappointment. On the other hand, if they do like your query, they may request to see your story, but keep in mind that doesn't mean they will accept it. It just means they are interested.

There are many ways to outline your query, but below, you'll find one of the most popular templates for query letters.

Your Address
City, State, Zip
Phone # E-mail Address

Editor's Name
Name of Magazine
City, State, Zip

Dear Mr./Mrs. [Editor's last name]:

In this first paragraph, it is essential that you hook the editor with information about your story or article. You can use a quote from your piece, a question to evoke a response, or a mind-boggling fact. Whatever you use, make sure it is powerful and compels the editor to keep reading.

Next, tell the editor a little about your story or article. What is it about? What special slant or angle does it have? How long is it? What age group is it intended for? Why should the editor be interested in it?

After that, give a brief paragraph about yourself and your qualifications for writing the article. Be sure to only mention information that pertains to your story or article. Random facts about your background are not going to go over well with the editor. Get straight to the point and explain why you are the best person to write this piece. If you have been previously published, be sure to mention that in this section. If you haven't been published, there is no need to say so. Allow your work to speak for itself.

Lastly, close with a brief statement of thanks. Don't forget to include a SASE with your query (if you are mailing it) and also to mention in this closing paragraph that the SASE is included.

[Your signature]

From there, place your query and SASE in an envelope, stick it in the mailbox, and then get started on another project while you wait for a reply. Response times vary depending on the publisher, but many can take six weeks or more to reply. Don't waste that time. Get busy on your next project, or if you feel compelled, send the query to another publisher. There is no limit as to how many publishers you can send you query to. Just remember to study each publication before approaching them to ensure that your piece would be a proper fit.


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