The average editor receives dozens of queries each day—many from PR firms that look exactly the same. When an editor glances—yes, she will initially glance at your query—you want something to grab her attention. Give her something that will make your query stand out from all the others.
For email queries, some writers have adopted the habit of putting something attention-grabbing in the Subject line. “Dog Murders His Owner” might initially get the attention of the editor, but rarely do these attention-grabbing and clickbait- type Subject lines follow up with something strong and compelling.
A brief anecdote that relates to your proposal is one effective way to grab an editor’s attention. It’s important that if you use this technique, that you are brief and also compelling enough to make the editor want to read more.
Don’t start your query with, “My name is Sue Smith, and I work at the public library in Toledo.”
“Dave was only 15 when he had his first accident with a train …” has a much better chance of getting an editor to read more.
In addition, it’s crucial to demonstrate in your query the reason why it’s unique and should be accepted. However, don’t tell the editor this—show him. Refrain from using phrases such as, “And this is why you should accept this query …” and “That’s the reason why …”
If you can’t show the editor why the story is important, then you are probably not likely to be able to tell her readers why the story is important.
Many people get hung up on this show versus tell dilemma. It’s really quite simple. Don’t tell me that this topic is significant, one of a kind, really cool and unique. Show the editor by telling a story that brings all these unique elements to life.
Show the editor in your query why it should be accepted. What makes this query/story unique? What separates it from the 75 other queries he’s received this week? How will readers benefit from reading this piece?
Finally, get to the point. As I mentioned earlier, an editor may just glance at your query and not spend the time on it you think it deserves. Grab that editor’s attention with a compelling anecdote and then move to the heart of the query.
There is hardly anything worse for an editor than to have her interest piqued right away by a strong anecdote only to have the query drag on for several more paragraphs—or pages.
Make your query strong and unique. Show and don’t tell—and get right to the point.
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