I asked my brother to read the letter and comment. He confirmed my suspicions – that the first paragraph was poisoning the rest of the letter. I couldn’t see it because I had invested so much time into it. But there it was; the first paragraph stated that the winery hadn’t produced a good product 120 years ago, so the reader (editor) would logically conclude that it couldn’t produce a decent wine now. I didn’t read it that way until someone else (my brother and sister-in-law) pointed it out. It’s sometimes difficult to step back and see exactly what your words are saying to the reader. After all, you know what you meant, right? But that’s why it is good to have someone read your query and see if it makes sense and excites them to want to read on and find out more.
I’ve rewritten the first paragraph. I’m much happier with it because it flows better and should have the desired effect: to get the editor to read the rest of the letter. I’m now in the process of trying to bring the letter to life. I don’t want to present a robotic tone. I think (from reading all the sample query letters I could get my hands on) that besides format, the letter needs to be a personal presentation. It must present the article idea in a way that reaches the editor’s way of thinking. It has to touch him or her in a way that makes them take action and want to see your manuscript. You have to sell the idea to each editor individually. As soon as you start sending out form-type letters, you have two strikes against you. This is not my opinion. I’ve read that in numerous books and blogs. There are people out there (people who have worked as editors) who explain what THEY were looking for when THEY were in the editor’s chair.
So seek out advice from people who have been writers AND editors to get the best, most informed ways of presenting your ideas. They can tell you what they know from experience. You can benefit! I’m going to finish up the query letter in a day or two. I suppose it will never really be finished until it sells the article idea. I’ll have to modify it for each editor I send it to.
The next thing I will need to do is prepare a list of magazines and editors to send it to. That’s one of the things I’m struggling with at the moment. How do I go to the Writer’s Market and choose the right magazines to query? I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. It’s not clear which magazines I should target. By the way, the Writer’s Market is a book, in case you haven’t seen one. You can look through it at the local library. And, you can buy it online. You can also go online and sign up for the Writers Market at www.writersmarket.com – although you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee to use it. You can pay for one month to have a look at it and decide if you want to subscribe long term. I believe the cost is about $6.00 a month. It’s cheaper if you sign up for a longer term. I’ve been paying monthly, but it makes sense to pay for a year and save a few bucks.
Once again, I’m going to plug Gordon Burgett’s travel writing resources. I have an affiliate link you can use here to see Gordon’s excellent products. I highly recommend making the modest investment in his book, The Travel Writer’s Guide. It’s worth its weight in gold to aspiring travel writers.
By late next week, I hope to have a list of magazines to send my query letter to. I’ll concentrate on getting at least 5 lined up so I can start sending out my queries. The goal is to get a “yes” before you run out of magazines to query. Seems easy enough! ?
Do you have any advice for me as I seek to sell my first article? Leave a comment and let’s have a discussion.