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4-3 Improving The Query Letter

© 2010 Mona Leeson Vanek

The following example is an actual critique between two professional writers.

QUERY LETTER WRITER sent the query letter she was planning to send to a magazine editor to her peer to be critiqued. HER PEER gave her opinion (critique) of what should be done to improve it -- before QUERY LETTER WRITER, sent it to the editor.

Study it and see how a query letter can be improved.

THE QUERY LETTER with (\\\\) inserted improvements suggested by PEER


I would like to propose a 700-word article that would include interesting facts about the carapace box turtle indigenous to the southeastern region of the United States.

\\\\Yawn! Sorry, fell asleep. :) Seriously, in the first place you say you would like to propose. Well, actually you ARE proposing. Find a hook. Maybe start with a quote. Something COMPELLING.

Hang on a sec. Okay, decided to read this through and then come back and do a line-by-line.

How about starting it with something like:

"Just as I know that the daffodils are going to poke through the frozen dirt after the last frost has gone, I know that Boomer is going to show up in my garden in the spring," retiree Bob Mitchell tells a fascinated eleven-year-old Jimmy Browne.

The story would center around a box turtle that was marked with a dot of nail polish years ago. This turtle returns yearly to the same house where a kind retired man feeds and waters him.

\\\\\ How about, "Boomer is a carapace box turtle that's been visiting 74-year-old Detroit native Bob Mitchell for the last nine years. Easily identifiable because of a spot of nail polish painted on his back, my 700-word story relates the relationship of this turtle and his companion-keeper. Intermingled in the story Bob tells Jimmy, important facts about how these indigenous reptiles survive the hard elements of a Michigan winter and live a long life are taught."

\\\\ (I made that up, but you get the idea. Make it positive and engaging, not passive.)

The story would go further into detail about the environment that has enabled this turtle to live a long life as well as other important facts relating to the carapace box turtle. I would write the article as if Bob, the turtle's sometimes caretaker, is visiting with and relating this story to my eleven-year-old son.

\\\\ See my comments above.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

\\\\ Wait a second. What about your past writing credits? Name the publications, and state your relationship with Bob and Jimmy. Explain how you did your research on the turtle. Are these facts or are these just things that Bob tells your son? You want to have provable resources. \\\\ Actually, you're trying to do a lot in 700 words. Are you sure it's possible to get all that in that space?

\\\\ Also, in the last line, make a positive statement consider this, "I look forward to working with you on this story for Boy's Life. You can reach me at (100) 333-2345 or by e-mail at to discuss this assignment further."

Do you see how a query can be more than you envisioned in your first draft?

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and polish, tweak, and polish, before you send out a query to an editor.

You'll also find excellent advice here if you download writers guidelines .pdf files and study them,

Chapter 9 - Querying and Related Issues:

Next: 4-4, The Internet - Your Road To Successful Writing and Marketing:

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