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Six Secrets for a Successful Query System
by Erica Myers-Russo
An overwhelmed writer recently asked the
MomWriters http://www.momwriters.com/ discussion group, "How do some
writers churn out so many queries?"
She knew getting assignments depends on sending
queries, but like many writers, struggled with writing the letters efficiently.
Here are six steps that will help you transform the struggle of querying into a
system. The system will not only help you use your time more efficiently, it
will also encourage you to spend more time querying because the whole process
will be less hassle.
Step #1 Organize.
Designate the space and time for writing
queries. Commit to it, and do not let anything else infringe. Linda Sherwood,
owner of Sherwood Communications http://www.sherwoodcom.com/ and editor of Small Town
Press http://www.smalltownpress.net/, notes, "It's very important to
be ready to write. Even if you don't have an office, set up a little table on
wheels with everything you'll need to start, polish, complete and send off a
query." So turn off the phone; disable Solitaire. Then make sure that you have
whatever it takes to sit down and write without excusing yourself to go get
something. And don't forget your list of.
When you sit down, you want to write, not
wonder, "What should I write about?" The easiest way to have a supply of ideas
is to maintain a list - it can be a small notebook or an electronic organizer,
but keep it with you at all times. When you see a fascinating idea, jot it down.
Leave a little space around it. Later, add details like potential markets,
various slants, key experts. Of course, to flesh out those ideas, you will
Nothing stalls a querying session faster than
searching for information. So have a sources at your fingertips, especially if
you specialize - even in the loosest sense of the word. For instance, I write
about the environment, so I keep a list of web databases that I can search
quickly for the information I need. When I write about fitness, I call on a
couple of pre-selected experts to answer my questions. You will still have to do
research, but the key is to eliminate a level wherever possible. You want to
search the database, not search for the database and then search for your
information. If your resources are human, make sure they know the drill ahead of
time so they understand why you are calling and - more critically - that you
need to get the info and get off the phone. When you have your information
ready, fill in your.
Creativity is both a bane and a boon for
writers. How many writers sit at their desk, staring off into space, putting
more thought into a query than they will into the final piece? When you write
queries, you need to channel your creativity through a methodology. The trick to
efficiency at this stage is to have a query template. Most books on freelancing
will give you a formula, so pick one that works for you. One of my favorites is
from Abbi Perets, author of Successful Freelance Writing http://www.successfulfreelancewriting.com/, who offers this
formula for a four-paragraph query:
* Hook - Open with a catchy lead
* Outline - Summarize your plan of
* Qualifications - Explain why you should write
the article, and
* Close - Ask for the assignment
Whichever formula you use, keep it in front of
you until it becomes second nature. That way you will feel like you are simply
plugging in information, not waiting for inspiration. When you have polished the
query, you are ready to.
Take that query you just wrote and slant it to a
different market. Ideally you already have brainstormed several potential
markets and slants on your handy list, but if you haven't, do it now. Freelance
writer and editor Lisa Beamer, in her Boiling Your Article Topic Down To
recommends asking questions about your topic. Maybe you started with an
environmental issue about industrial pollution. Now look for the health
implications of the issue, and re-slant it to a health magazine. Is there a risk
of exposure to children? Send it as a short to a parenting magazine. Does it
affect farmers? Birds? Businesses? This way one basic session of research can
generate four or five queries with little additional work. Once you've sent off
those queries, don't forget to.
Tracking is the system that governs the system.
You can use index cards, a spreadsheet, or an online tool like the Writers'
Market Submission Tracker http://www.writersmarket.com/. Whichever method you choose, it
should include the date, market, article title, and a place to record the
response. If you haven't heard from the publication after a suitable interval (a
good guideline is their stated response time plus a week or two), follow up. And
when you get a rejection, have another potential market waiting in the wings.
Tweak the query for the new publication and send it back out. Once you've
written the query, make it work for you until it sells.
One final piece of advice comes from busy
freelancer Bobbi Dempsey http://www.bobbidempsey.com/, who routinely keeps 100 active
queries in circulation. She calls her approach the "Worry Less, Query More"
philosophy: "I just do it, send it, and move on to the next
© Copyright 2003, Erica Myers-Russo
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