Purpose of a Query Letter

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A query letter is a powerful writer's tool.
A query letter is a powerful writer's tool. (Image: laptop 3 image by patrimonio designs from Fotolia.com)

The purpose of query letters for writers is to find out whether an editor would be interested in finding out more about seeing a piece of work. It’s a professional business letter used to sell a manuscript or magazine/newspaper article idea. A query letter can accomplish much more than introducing a writer'sideas for a book or article.

Get the Editor’s Attention

The first paragraph of a query letter begins with the idea of selling your work. It’s important that the first sentence grab the reader’s attention and make her want to keep reading your query letter. Editors are extremely busy and often get sidetracked while working on projects, so your query letter should make a strong enough impact for the editor to remember it even after several unexpected interruptions.

Sell the Work

Don’t waste time making small talk. Get right to the selling point of your letter. The selling point should clearly explain why you chose the topic you’re pitching. It should show why the topic is unique. It could be something that interesting, controversial or shocking, and it shouldn’t take more than a couple of sentences to demonstrate the point.

Sell Yourself

Your query also needs to contain a section that shows the editor why you are qualified to write the book or article. For instance, do you have specialized educational credentials? Or experience with the topic? Do you have clips proving that you’re qualified to write about the subject? Sell yourself as the best writer for the job.

Ask for the Opportunity

The query also contains a section where you ask for the article assignment or the opportunity to have your book published. Show the editor how easy you’ll make his job by handling the whole project, making sure it’s well researched and delivered by the established deadline.

Showcase Your Clips

If your query letter is targeting magazine editors, you’ll get the opportunity to supply some of your best clips as proof of your high-quality writing style. Clips are copies of published articles. If you are mailing your letter by snail mail you can make good quality copies of two or three articles to send along with the letter.

If you are sending a query letter electronically, you generally paste the clips into the body of the article rather than sending them as attachments. Some editors will not accept attachments because of the ever-present threat of viruses.

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