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Do You Know How To Query?

The following article is an excerpt from “Success: Your Path to a Successful Book” by Maralyn D. Hill and Brenda C. Hill, and is reprinted with permission (and a big thank you to Maralyn). You can learn more about Maralyn at the end of this article.

Do you know how to Query? Magazines, Agents and Publishers all require query letters. This article is appropriate for submissions to any or all of the three mentioned. If you are an aspiring travel writer or one who is established, it is still important to review these suggestions.

The next two paragraphs are aimed at those who want to publish books, but, unfortunately, similar statistics go along with magazine and newspaper queries. With that market shrinking on a weekly, if not daily basis, you need to present your writing ability and knowledge of the subject well.

An important factor is reflected in a quote from E. Keith Howick, Jr., President of WindRiver Publishing, in his new book (released July 2009), “Blow Us Away! Publishers’ Secrets for Successful Manuscripts [2] (I highly recommend it, as it gives you hard facts).

“About 20 million manuscripts are circulating among thousands of U.S. publishers at any given time. From these manuscripts, about 400,000 new titles are published each year. …A manuscript has about a one-in fifty chance of being published (these statistics include self-published authors).”

I’ll paraphrase another one of Keith’s comments “…85% of books do not make it past the query letter as the query letter is not well written.

You may want to read The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Selling More Work Faster [3]
, by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell. It provides query letters that have worked, along with comments from the writer and editor.

I’d like to emphasize the importance of going to a magazine, agent, or publisher’s website. Be sure to look for the guidelines and follow them to the letter. If they do not review or publish material on your topic, don’t send it as it will land in the trash pile. If the guidelines say use one inch margins, use one inch margins even if 1.5 inch looks better. The same goes for spacing. Many ask for double spaced pages, yet others request 1.5 spacing.

Query Musts:

Be sure your query letter has a hook and draws in the reader. In addition to having your material edited and formatted properly, knowing you are writing to their market, learn from your queries. If you are rejected and they don’t provide feedback, write a polite letter and ask if they could tell you why or what it would take to be considered. If you’re lucky, you could get some feedback that could help you tighten your copy.

Many thanks again to Maralyn D. Hill for permission to reprint the above article!

Do you struggle with Query Letters or find them simple? Share your experience!