Are you making these query mistakes?

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Hey Writing Etc. Subscriber,

Couple things:

First, I just finished all my one year cancerversary tests. Unbelievably, an entire year has passed since my diagnosis… time flies.

What’s the new news? So far, so good. All the scans are clear. Blood tests good. Tests… wonderful. While I’m hardly out of the woods as far as relapses go, this is a fabulous start.

That feels good.

Second, I’ve purposely gone light on sharing the gory details of this new “adventure.” I know I rather dislike hearing the blow-by-blows of disease, I’ll assume the same for you.

Suffice it to say it’s been a rough year. If you’ve emailed and I haven’t answered, it isn’t because I’m ignoring you. I’ve simply had a difficult time and am glad I’m this far along. I’m incredibly thankful for every message, every moment I can spend in my beloved office with my lovely pups.

I enjoy simplicity.

On that end, I couldn’t help but smile as I read my latest round of email correspondence. Amongst them were dozens of new queries.

Filbert Publishing is listed in the Writer’s Market. That’s awesome, I like being affiliated with them. I’ve reviewed some solid potential projects. It’s also a bit frustrating because I see far too many potential projects presented with, I’ll be frank, not super queries.

So, I thought I’d share a few pointers to help your queries accomplish their intended purpose. You see, query writing is half technical expertise, half art. The technical aspect of this process is actually quite easy to master. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Use capital letters. Yup, they go at the beginning of each sentence. They’re also quite handy to use when using a proper noun. They’re generally awesome.
  2. Don’t use all caps, though. Using them in this manner looks like you’re YELLING at your reader. You never want to do this.
  3. Punctuation is useful. Be sure to use commas and periods. A super long steam of consciousness query likely, will not get read.
  4. Paragraphs are fabulous. Short paragraphs are even better. Use white space to ease eye strain.
  5. Begin your query with a snappy opener. Generally get your reader interested in the subject before you introduce yourself. The AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) model is a good one to follow. The four Ps work, too. You can also employ Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs. No matter what model you use, structure your query in a logical style.
  6. Don’t demand your book be available at any big-box/discount stores, especially if you’re a newbie querying a small publisher. This tells me you little to nothing about the book biz.
  7. Proofread, proofread, proofread. This is your reader’s first impression of you. If you are unable to polish a one page query, I can’t help but wonder how messy your manuscript will be. (Note: typos happen. I get that. But multiple mistakes in one query is a bit suspicious.)
  8. Send your query to a person. “Dear Editor” and “Dear Publisher” tells me you know absolutely zero about my company. I rather like when query writers demonstrate that they’re not only familiar with Filbert Publishing, but have taken five minutes to research how their project will fit with our current list.
  9. Get the name right. Maury reads queries, to. He’s not Mary. Nor is he Morrie. Also, I’m not Bart, Burt, or Barney.
  10. One to two pages will do the trick. One paragraph doesn’t tell me enough. Five pages is a bit much. Queries give the reader a taste of the project.
  11. Read the submission guidelines. These help a lot.

Not hard, eh? You’d be surprised how many writers forgo at least one of these little tips. That’s unfortunate. But hey… if you use this article as a handy check list, you’ll give your query a leg up when it comes the competing flow of email.

Good luck!

Beth 🙂

P.S. Want more techniques that’ll sharpen your queries? Check out “Advice to Freelance Writers: Insider Secrets to Effective Shoestring Marketing, Managing a Winning Mindset, and Thriving in Any Economy, Volumes 1 – 3.” It’s available as an economical ebook. Get the scoop here.

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