Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Query - 3 Tips for that query...You have 10 seconds to catch the editor's eye! Make each second count.

Are you going to be noticed?

I subscribe to a Travel Writer's website as along with writing novels and flash fiction, I write travel articles about the places I've been (and as my followers know, I've been to plenty...). 

I learned about the 'pitch' when I studied Journalism years ago, and yes, in freelance journalism it's all about 'pitching the story' to editors, much like your story pitch for that wonderful novel you've written. I was recently sent this little article on the 'query' for travel articles and it works fine for querying that agent or editor for your novel...

I've recently submitted a manuscript to a publisher. I'm quite confident my ms is a good one, but I wonder whether the query letter I sent along with the ms will be good enough to catch the editor's eye. Oh, those we sink and swim by them?

Over to The Right Way to Travel...

"This week, we’re talking about techniques to help you sell your travel articles faster and easier.

And, today, I’d like to focus on the query letter – the letter you send to editors pitching your story to their publication.

Many writers treat their query letter as an after-thought, once the “hard work” of writing their story is over. But this is a huge mistake. Your query, you see, is the advertisement for your story.And, however good your article might be, if it’s not accompanied by a compelling query, it’s unlikely to ever meet an editor’s eye.

To make matters harder, Denver Post Travel Editor Kyle Wagner says you have just 10 seconds (or less) to win over an editor with your pitch.

So, how do you get your editor at “Hello?”

Here are three suggestions from Kyle:

** 1. It’s all about the subject line and/or the first sentence.

A truthful editor will admit that they devote about 10 seconds to every query. That means you have the subject line and maybe one or two sentences into your query to get some attention. If you can’t woo the editor then, your romance is over before it’s begun.

** 2. Use your writing skills.

I’m amazed at how many writers think it’s OK to put 100% effort into their stories but only 40% into the query. Make sure the editor will want to read the story by dazzling them just as much by your query prose. Spelling counts. Use the same active verbs and strong adjectives as you do in your story.

** 3. Just because it’s e-mail doesn’t mean I'm your drinking buddy.

Don’t use the editor’s first name, don’t start off with your credentials or the famous people you know, and don’t act in a familiar, informal way as if you and the editor were at a bar together last night. Address it like a professional letter.

Be sure to keep these tips in mind next time you’re composing your query."

The Right Way to Travel
2012 American Writers & Artists Inc

  • Do you agree with this 'query' advice?
  • Do you have any 'query' tips to share?


  1. I do ok with queries for the short stories; but that novel length one still eludes me. I'm always professional with the query, even with editors that I've worked with already and have a rapport built up. I view it like my day job; I am friends with a lot of my co-workers and supervisors, but I never forget we are at work, and have a professional relationship. Same with the query.

    Great tips Denise; thanks for sharing them. I still need to stop by your travel blog for the scoop on the Fiji trip.

    Almost the weekend again :)


  2. Oh! Good luck with your query to the publisher!! I'm super excited for you and have my fingers crossed that your ms gets noticed.

    Great timing with this post, btw. I'm not a fan of writing queries, but I wrote one up today for my latest ms. I think it doesn't suck, so that's a good start, I guess. All I need to do is finish polishing the stupid ms ;)

  3. My friend Denise,
    I am not a writer as you know, but if I was, this would be so precious for me to keep and use. You are so kind and SMART!! I hope all goes well for you. I think I've learned a few things today. Thank you for sharing my friend. All the best.

    1. Andy you are a writer. You must be considering putting together an anthology one day. You'll need a query for that.

    2. I agree with Denise. You ARE a writer Andy. Stop saying that you aren't or I'm going to be very upset with you. :-)

  4. I think those are great tips.
    Good luck with your query!

  5. Yeah, you're just shooting yourself in the foot if you treat the query as a formality. It's the handshake, the first impression, and the writer's business card all in one letter. How do you want to be introduced to your future working partner? As a slacker who can't spell right? Or a writer who can't artfully sum up their own story? Not! Good tips. :)

  6. Hi, Denise,

    Thanks for the tips.... I need to query soon, so these will come in handy. I should have by now, but I am doing one more run through on my ms.

  7. GREAT tips!!! Only other thing I can add is the query should only tell the first 1/3 of the story. Once I learned that it really helped me right a good one!

    1. Thanks Stephanie. I always wonder about that 1/3rd bit. I've yet to learn that!

  8. Oh, dear Denise. If you only knew my querying blues. I may be the single worst query writer in the world.

    Stats (I kid you not)

    Query letters sent since 1 July 80+ (somewhere along the line I lost count)
    Full requests 1 (she's an agent who's read my work before)
    Form responses 30+ (Dear Author variety)
    Partial requests 0

    I have never felt like such a squashed, insignificant bug in all my life. I have nine versions of my query letter out there accumulating form letters for me. :(

    Thanks for this post. Have a beautiful weekend!

    1. Man, Suze, that's quite a list! Surely its time you had a break. Keep us posted.

  9. Those are great tips. I'm getting better at query letters - but they're scary. For my current ms I think I have about 10 pages (minimum) of different versions of the query looking for just the right wording :)

  10. Sometimes I think queries are harder to write than the actual story. In fact, I even agonize over blurbs and bios. But at least I wouldn't be silly enough to address and editor/publisher by their first name :-)

  11. As simple as that. But, not easy to do. As you say, Sis, you've got one shot! Reminds me of any "scary" choice, as in buying ONE house, or ONE car. Only a few words, but so important!!

    Hope you're enjoying life "over there." Still hoping to see you and your hubby SOME time in my lifetime!!

  12. Those are great tips! I learned the importance of a quick pitch when I was in PR. It really helped when it came to writing blurbs and queries!

  13. Hi Denise,
    Useful tips there. Query letters scare me silly. Def easier to write fiction/poetry/travelogues. Thanks for sharing.
    Have a great week ahead.

  14. Great tips for queries. My query skills are probably middle of the road, even though I spend weeks on crafting the 'perfect' one. They are so hard to write. But not as hard as the dreaded synopsis.

  15. I do agree with this advice. I have created a few queries for my MS and I keep track of the ones that do the best. I have one that is more "professional", 3 paragraphs, with a general open, bio and closing and one where I use my lead characters voice and another where I act as a narrator of my story. The more creative of the two are the ones that have landed me the most reads and attention.

    Thanks for this post! :-)

  16. Hi Denise,

    You've come up with some awesome tips here. I know for a fact that query letters catch an editors eye first and foremost. You can spend days or hours spell-checking your manuscript but if there are mistakes in your QL- the editor will not even look at your work.

  17. Norrkoping, Sweden

    Dear Denise,
    Sounds like good advice: make it short, to the point,
    informative, without unnecessary words.
    Ten seconds!
    I still have that road to cross. But I aim to get there one day.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Best wishes,

  18. That's great advice, and parallels a lot of what I've read about querying novel manuscripts. I love the idea of thinking in terms of short articles, though: the pared down, high-impact headlines and lead sentences. Thankyou!

  19. Hi,

    Thank you so much for such wonderful advice, they surely so seem to be so relevant, to the point and easy to follow.

    Here from Andy's Blog Hop!

  20. Great post, Denise. But darn, getting that subject line pitch perfect is so hard...

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