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Five Keys To A Successful Query Letter

Do you know what a query letter is? If so, you are of a rare breed-a writer. Most people don't. I discovered this when I created "Instant Query Letters" software. "What's a queer letter?" they ask. The sad thing-they aren't joking.

Query letters are a major part of your life if you are a freelance writer. Almost every request for magazine articles includes the statement to "query first."

We know that this means to send a detailed summary of the article to the publisher. You should never send the completed manuscript until it's requested.

I decided to ask a few editor friends about their preferences when it came to querying. They told me that a great query letter must do five main things:

-Grab attention immediately.

-Summarize your article or book idea in the most compelling fashion.

-Emphasize why YOU are the best one to write about the topic.

-Show your professionalism.

-Display your writing credits.

First, I highly recommend beginning your opening with the first line or two of your article or book. It immediately draws the editor or agent's attention to your idea. Since you've probably sweated over the perfect beginning anyway, why not let it do double duty?

Second, make your points quickly, yet concisely. Don't drag out your story idea. Build excitement in your recipient to WANT to read more about this fascinating story.

Third, tell why you are so knowledgeable about the topic. Why did you choose the topic? Are you querying about an article about dogs? If you are a professional trainer, then say so. Are you suggesting a "How To?" book? Tell your qualifications.

Fourth, you should always present yourself as an intelligent professional. Be sure that your writing tone is confident without sounding arrogant. Always double- check your grammar and spelling. Many editors have stated that they will not deal with writers that do not show enough pride in their work to use a spell-checker!

Finally, toot your own horn! This is where you get to brag about your writing accomplishments. Most editors will appreciate the fact that you've written something that has been considered good enough to be published.

If you are a new, unpublished writer, there's still hope for you. Many editors are looking for new talent. Don't mention that you have not been published. Simply make it clear that you have enjoyed a particular article recently published, then name the article and state how your article idea would mesh with the magazine as well. Actually, that's a good idea for all queries to include!

Now that you've gotten a handle on the five important query letter components, what are you waiting for? Find a magazine that publishes your kind of writing, query it right, and spend the time waiting for your response by creating new queries. That way, no matter what the reply, you can always have fresh ideas to send out.


Kristi Sayles, author of numerous magazine and ezine articles, invites every writer to try her "Instant Query Letters!" Software. It creates fast, easy and fool-proof queries that contain ALL of the necessary components of a great query letter after the writer follows the simple Q and A format! It's a huge help to those learning to query and a major time-saving tool for more "seasoned" writers. Get it now at -More writing software by Ms. Sayles at

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