WordCount – Freelancing in the Digital Age

By Michelle Vranizan Rafter

How to write queries that sell

with 5 comments

The need to market my writing business just got more urgent – a relatively new client that I’ve loved working with just announced drastic cuts that will effectively doom the relationship.

As a result, I’ve got a couple works in progress that now need new homes and openings on my calendar that I need to fill. I also need to find some new markets to replace the one that’s dried up.

What that all boils down to is writing more queries.

All queries are not equal. The queries I send to a few editors I write for on a regular basis are short, either because those editors know me and know my work, or because the stories I’m pitching aren’t that long and involved. Queries I send to editors at publications and Websites I haven’t written for before need to be longer because I want to explain more about how I’d tackle the story and why I’m the perfect writer to do it.

Writing short queries – I recently heard some writers refer to them as “queries lite” – is easier for me because they’re very similar to the story budget lines I did as a newspaper reporter. Longer queries are harder because they involve doing more research and in some cases writing them as you would the beginning of a story to show an editor your writing chops.

Although I’ve been in the business for a while, when it comes to writing queries I’m still unsure of myself. So I’m looking for resources to learn more about them. Here are a few I’ve come up with:

The Renegade Writer’s Query Letter’s That Rock – Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell followed up their book on freelance writing with this one, which includes real examples of queries “that earned great assignments from major magazines.” Burrell also teaches a three-week online course on developing story ideas; the next one starts on Monday, Nov. 3.

Write knock dead query letters – This February 2008 article from Writer’s Digest is chock full of suggestions, such as write a query in the style of the publication you’re pitching and include a couple clips that demonstrate you can write about the topic you’re pitching.

Pitching Practice: Write Six Queries in Six Weeks – Another online class, this one taught by freelance writer Christina Katz, author of Get Known Before the Book Deal and the popular Writer Mama blog.

What are your go-to resources for learning more about queries?

5 Responses

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  1. Michelle,
    I’m sorry to hear about that market drying up. :( I may be one of the few writers who actually enjoy writing queries. I used to work in PR (and took several PR courses) before I became a full time freelancer, so that gave me plenty of practice in pitching. I also enjoy that in between writing a query and getting an acceptance or a rejection (or neither), there’s a sense of possibility and opportunity. I’m sure you know FLX has a forum devoted to successful queries, so that’s another source of ideas and inspiration. Linda and Diana’s book is fantatic, too!


    October 31, 2008 at 1:23 pm

  2. Susan: Thanks for the support. I subscribe to the belief that people should embrace those things that scare or intimidate them the most, so I see this as a challenge to get over my query phobia and learn to love that part of my writing business.


    Michelle Rafter

    October 31, 2008 at 3:34 pm

  3. […] to add some new writing assignments to your calendar. You send out letters of introduction and query like crazy. A few nibbles come in as a result, and you pounce on them, immediately emailing more […]

  4. […] How to write queries that sell […]

  5. […] How to write queries that sell – Know who you’re pitching to, and other helpful hints. […]

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