Thursday, March 08, 2007

Here is the second hand-out from our 3/3/07 Meeting

The Query / Cover Letter
Required Elements
Presented to the NJCWG Group on 3/3/07
by Louise Bergmann DuMont

THE HOOK (Pitch)
Your first line should hook the reader’s attention. It must demonstrate that you can write effectively, and that you understand the publication’s market.

1. Show a problem and how you solved it. (Carpenter ants will destroy your home but not everyone wants to use toxic chemicals to exterminate them. I recently used an earth friendly system to rid…)
2. Share information that is not common knowledge or show why your reader needs to know what you are writing about. (The mothers of 2003 are no longer surrounded by a previous generation of women who will mentor them in child rearing. What do these women do when their newborns come down with diaper rash or their toddlers throw their first temper tantrum? They often turn their peers. I have written an article that explains how young mothers can start their own support groups.)
3. Ask a question. (Did you know…?, What would you do if…?, Have you ever wondered…?)
4. Use a personal anecdotal approach. (When my five year old son, Jason, was diagnosed with leukemia…)
5. Grab the reader’s attention. (As my grip slipped from its slender hold on the mountain’s ridge I wondered if my life would truly flash before my eyes when I fell from its heights…)

1. Personal Introductions (Hi, my name is…)
2. Sucking Up (I just LOVE your magazine and have subscribed for 20 years)
3. Sympathy Ploy (I really need the money that this article will bring because…)
4. Too Humble / Unprofessional (I’ve never been published before… I know you’ve probably got other articles better than mine but…)
5. Too Proud (I am a highly experience professional… My article would be perfect for your magazine because…) Skip words like wonderful, perfect, fascinating, etc when referring to your work. Let the editor decide for himself how good your work is based on the writing.
6. God Sent (God told me…) When God tells the editor to publish your work, THEN he’ll listen.

Once you have the editor hooked, pitch your idea with solid information. This should include a working title, a word count, the target audience, and a brief summary of the article. The actual pitch is often the first line of the body. The longer the article the more detailed the body. Doing a point by point outline of your intended article (for you, not for the editor) will make sure you include the important information when writing this section. If you are writing a cover letter (not a query), this information section will be no longer than a few lines.

Example: I’d like to offer you a 1,500 word article entitled “Dressing the Mother of the Groom.” This article describes the ordeal of a slightly plump, jeans and T-shirt mom who sets out to purchase the perfect formal gown. Its target audience is every woman who has experienced the stress of trying to find the ultimate dress for her special occasion. It is a light-hearted look at a society that highly prizes the petite and fit forms of youth…a society that often leaves the average woman with less than sophisticated choices in the dressing room.

Even if you’ve never been published, you must address the issue of your credentials. The editor wants to know why YOU are the best person to write the article you have proposed. This is usually the last or next to last paragraph.

Some things you could/should list.

 Professional experience pertinent to the subject you are writing about
 Academic degrees or training pertinent to the subject you are writing about
 Teaching experience pertinent to the subject you are writing about
 Personal experience pertinent to the subject you are writing about
 Writing experience – ANY writing experience
 Interviews with experts (if you don’t have expertise in the area you are writing about this is an excellent way of demonstrating that you know how to GET the information you need)

“Thank you very much…” – plus one last nudge.

Example: Thank you for taking the time to review my query. If you would like to see my article, I could have it on your desk within two weeks of receiving notice from you. I am looking forward to your response.

 Create a nice, clean looking letterhead that includes your name, address, phone number and email address.
 Business Style (Block or Modified Block Style with spaces between paragraphs)
 Formal Salutation (Dear Mr. Robert Rowe or Ms. Roberta Rowe – Not Dear Bob or Bobbie)
 Clean copy.
 Proofread and corrected copy.
 Quality paper – Use at least 20-lb bond paper in white, linen or parchment – no colors
 Enclose a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). Don’t use ‘insert’ envelopes (A4, A6, etc); instead fold a full-size business envelope (#10) in thirds and send that. If you are sending a full manuscript with the cover letter and you would like both returned, make sure the envelope is large enough that the manuscript is not folded.
 Send clips only IF the guidelines request them.

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