“What? Who needs a query letter? I’ll just send ‘em the manuscript. It’s perfect, I’m sure they’ll love it.”
Well, speaking as your competition, I say go right ahead and keep on the road you’re on. Be sure and let all of us know how that works for ya.
For the rest of you that are interested in obtaining “contender” status, listen up.
The query letter is literally your foot in the door so you better make it right. It has to be perfect. Yes it does, don’t argue with me. This single piece of 8 and a half by 11 is absolutely your best chance to show the publication two things:
- You know how to write. THAT’S why you want it to be perfect.
- You are a professional. By virtue of just sending the query, you’ve risen above so many of the other writers who are seeking the attention of the editor.
I’ll take this opportunity to tell you that there are publications that accept manuscripts as initial contact. So how on earth do you know who does and who doesn’t? It’s really pretty simple. Pull out your recent copy of 2009 Writer’s Market and read the section for the particular publication you’re interested in writing for. If you don’t have this book and you’re a writer then stop right here. Quit reading this post. I mean it. Click on the link and buy the darned book already. Come back to the post once you have received it and continue your education.
Once you’ve decided on the publication that most fits what you want to write, you can start your research. That’s right. The Writer’s Market is just your starting point. Hike your carcass down to the bookstore and buy a copy or two of the magazine. Alternatively go to the magazine’s web site and read through any samples they may have. While there, compare the contact information in their Writer’s Guidelines with the information in Writer’s Market. Hey, jobs change, people fall in and out of favor. Sending your query to the wrong person clearly falls into the “not off to a good start” category.
“Geez, George. That sounds like an awful lot of work.” Welcome to the world of being a writer. If this sounds like too much work then go complete your Great American Novel, make a million bucks and leave the rest of us alone.
You want to read the publication becasue you want a feel for the style and focus of the magazine. Fail to do this and you may as well save the stamp because your query is not going to work. Ok, it might work sometimes, but it’s not how a professional writer operates.
You’ve done your homework, you’ve got a great idea and you think you have found the perfect publication for your pitch.
Congrats. You’re ready to write the query letter. Which we’ll discuss in part two of this post.