Monday, February 08, 2010

Selling Short

Yours Truly is a guest blogger today on Literary Database. In my post, I sing the praises of Short and Sweet Queries.

The more I work with people who "live" online, the more I am struck by the importance of keeping one's query verbiage to a minimum. No lengthy "why I wrote this" nonsense. No "here's what the reader will learn" milksop. No detailed histories, character bios, or 3-Act beats. Save your writing prowess for the Piece. But don't weigh down your query with bling.

This is counterintuitive to many writers. I include myself in that group. I fight the desire to "sell myself" in my query, but that's not necessary.

A query is not supposed to sell ME. (Little known secret: A query is really not even supposed to sell an article or a book.) A query is simply supposed to bring to editors', agents', and publishers' attention that YOU have written something THEY need. They know what they need. All a query does is tell them where to go to find it.

I have completely revised how I teach writers to structure their queries. Especially when it comes to platform-building articles, I strongly encourage all writers to follow the "less is more" approach to their queries. In essence:

1.) Say how you know what they need.

I saw on "Kitchen Kookery" that you are looking for family-friendly recipes.

This is the Queryland equivalent of networking.

2.) Say what you have.

I would like to submit "Perfect Pancakes" for your consideration. In approximately 600 words, it details the art of creating flawless flapjacks.

This translates to: "This piece is for sale."

3.) Say who you are.

I am a 4-star chef with over 7 years of experience as a mother and a short-order cook.

Translation: "I am qualified."

4.) Say "Good night," Gracie.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Translation: "Good night!"

In all your brevity, however, don't forget to include your contact information.

In the last month, I have sold at least 5 pieces to new markets. None of my acceptance notes were more than 2 sentences long (with the exception of the contract verbiage). One, from a respected, well-paying market, consisted of a single word:


Did I feel cheated because of the short communications? Hardly. I simply took it as an indicator of how the industry pros preferred their correspondence.

Just call me a new fan of selling short!

1 comment:

Karen said...

I heartily agree. I've taken this tactic with my own queries recently.