Whatever other gifts you may receive this Christmas season, consider giving yourself something that will raise your spirits and may even move your writing hopes and dreams forward.
A query is a brief but detailed one-page letter (or email) written to interest an editor or agent in your … thing (article, book, screenplay, etc.). Some aspiring writers are hesitant to query because they think an editor or agent can more fairly judge an idea by seeing the entire manuscript. Not so much. Truth is, many editors and agents prefer to see a query (though, in my case, I prefer to start the conversation about representation once a full proposal is available).
Also, word to the wise: This time of year, magazine editors are typically working on Easter and mid-year themes (such as Spring, Memorial Day, Independence Day, etc.).
So, why not give yourself the gift of querying someone about something, whether it’s an article idea, book concept, or speaking topic? (I’ve even successfully queried drama scripts, greeting cards, Bible studies, and poetry!)
A few things to keep in mind if you do:
- Never query a position, always a person (if you don’t know the name, find it in The Christian Writers Market Guide or on a website).
- Never query someone unless you know they accept queries.
- If you mail a query (remember actual snail mail?), always include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
- Never email a query unless you know they accept email queries.
- And, if you’re meeting an editor or agent at a writers conference, take along a snazzy one-sheet or a hard-copy query addressed to him or her by name, full address, the whole shebang. It’s impressive.
Querying tends to brand you as a pro. (Amateurs don’t know to query.) Queries tend to be handled and responded to in a fraction of the time it takes manuscripts and proposals to be considered. It enables you to focus your writing (i.e., to write only articles, books, etc., that have already generated interest) and enlists the most qualified people (editors, agents) into your critique circle (i.e., they will often respond with a helpful suggestion or comment … even if they don’t invite the piece). Querying also sometimes gives you the opportunity to tailor your writing to an editor’s specific needs or specifications (e.g., “make sure it’s conversational in tone,” or “be sure to include examples from the Church of God in Christ with Apostolic Power and Signs and Wonders in Fulfillment of Prophecy”). And queries are more easily and effectively followed up with a new idea, even after a rejection.
So, even if you reach out to only one person with one irresistible idea, who knows what blessings may come about if you have yourself a query little Christmas?