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Query Letters That Worked
"Musings" for March 2007 Part Two
Back to Part One

by Margot Finke

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The three queries below show what a huge difference there can be in successful query letters.

Rebecca Talley
123 Main Avenue
Anytown, CA 90009
(123) 555-1234
rebeccawrites@example.com

June 16, 2006

Mary Jones
ABC Publishing
1234 Broadway #1
New York NY 10009

Ms. Jones,

Have you ever felt like you didn’t have a talent? That’s exactly the way that Gabby feels when her teacher announces the school talent show. Gabby is certain that everyone, especially "Nosey Rosey," will find out that she’s talentless.

Gabby’s Secret is my 3900-word chapter book written for a third grade reading level. May I interest you in reading the completed manuscript?

I am a member of SCBWI and the author of a children’s picture book. I have also had stories published in children’s magazines.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. I have enclosed an SASE for your reply.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Talley

This query made the editor ask for the manuscript.


Example # 2:

July 20, 2006

Fandangle Magazine
C/O Nancy Cavanaugh
14 Schult Street
Keene, NH 03431

Dear Ms. Cavanaugh:

How do American children born of multicultural, multiracial intermarriages feel about their identity? Do they accept who they are? Are they comfortable with their identity? Do they know who they are? These questions must be of concern to the many American children who find themselves in such situations.

For your next issue of Fandangle Magazine, I propose to submit a story of about 600 words titled: "Who Am I?" In the story, a nine year old girl of multicultural intermarriage between an African man and an American lady is troubled by the question of her identity. But her parents dismiss her question simply. Her friends tease her about her name and identity. She turns to her African grandfather for an answer, but he is hard of hearing. When she discovers he can read English, she poses the question to him in a poem. The grandfather asks why she is concerned. In response she says, "I really, really, don't know who I am. My mom and my dad say they know who I am. But I don't. I mean, who am I?"

Formerly a university lecturer, university administrator and civil servant in Zambia, Africa I now live in California. I am a graduate of Long Ridge Writer's Group, Institute of Children's Literature and member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. My one children's story: "Too Clever by Half" has been published in an anthology titled, The Gathering of the Minds, (San Francisco, doorwaytothemind.com). I could also write other children's stories with a Zambian (African) flavor if this meets with your needs.

I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing
from you.

Yours sincerely,

Vukani G. Nyirenda   

This query received an acceptance.


Example # 3:

January 4, 2007

White Horse Publishing
PO Box 718
Collingwood, PA 17278

Dear Mr. James:

Would our founding father, Ben Franklin, have been as influential in our history if he had gone to sea instead of becoming a printer? Would he have loved freedom as he did, if he had not lost it as an apprentice? Would he have had the courage to rebel against England, if he hadn’t rebelled against his own master and run away?

For your historical press, I would like to tell, in novel format, the story of Ben Franklin’s childhood. Historical figures come alive for children in the middle grades when they are presented as a novel.

Using the writings of Franklin himself as source material, I plan to start this story just before Ben is apprenticed to be a printer. Ben’s love of the sea and desire to be a sailor worry his father, who wants him to make a respectable living. When Ben objects to the smell of soap making, the labor of smithing, and the monotony of bricklaying, his father is despondent. But he notices in his son a love of reading; could Ben’s career lie in the written word? Ben is bound to his brother, James, until he is 21, but leaves at 17. Before running away, however, Ben Franklin is forever changed. His studies, his arguments with James, his written debates with John Collins, and his attempt at vegetarianism all shaped this great statesman.

As a former middle school literature teacher, I know how to appeal to this unique age group, and my own passion for history will be evident as Ben’s story comes to life.

I have enclosed a postage-paid return envelope for your convenience. I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Kristee Pittman

This query tempted the editor to read the manuscript. It is still under consideration.


One Last Piece of Advice

Once posted, forget about it for at least three months. Begin writing something new. Stalking the postman will not make editors read any faster. Moreover, whatever it says on their websites about when you will receive their answer, plan to wait a minimum of six months. In some cases, it takes twice that long. A short note of enquiry, or a postcard after six months, is permissible. While you wait, take comfort in knowing that most writers feel a sense of inadequacy when it’s time to write a query letter. Join the club!

HAPPY WRITING MATES!

Margot Finke's biography and index to Musings. Part One of this article.



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