Wendy Burt-Thomas

Our Query Contest is just around the corner. This week, we are thrilled to have The Query Queen Wendy Burt-Thomas, author of The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters for our Author Q&A. Burt-Thomas has also written Oh, Solo Mia! : The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One and Work It, Girl! : Productive and Fun Tips for the Hip Working Chick, as well as more than 1,000 published articles, short stories, essays, reviews, poems, and greeting cards. She is a full-time freelance writer, editor, and PR consultant.

Wendy Burt-Thomas

When and how did you catch the writing bug?
I’ve written (mostly short stories and poems) since I was a very little kid. The first piece I got paid for was a poem I wrote when I was 16. My dad sent it in on my behalf (didn’t tell them my age) and I think I got $50. It’s been published at least 10 times since then. My dad is also a writer (12 books and probably thousands of other published pieces), so that helped!

How did The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters come about?
Ironically, I never wrote a query letter for it! I’d been teaching “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” for about eight years and a good friend, Christina Katz (author of Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform) told me that her publisher was looking for someone to write the book. I called the editor and she basically agreed on the phone based on my credentials.

What was your favorite part of the process? The greatest challenge?
I absolutely loved writing the bad query letters. I didn’t want to use “real” ones because I didn’t want to rip anyone apart. So I got to make up some horrible samples—but sadly, most of the mistakes are based on actual queries I’ve read. The greatest challenge was definitely the chapter on writing queries for novels. All of my books have been nonfiction, so I had to do a lot of research. It helped that I received a bunch of great novel queries that landed book deals. (They’re in the book.)

Why are query letters so important?
Breaking into the publishing world is hard enough right now. Unless you have a serious “in” of some kind, you really need a great query letter to impress an agent or acquisitions editor. Essentially, your query letter is your first impression. If they like your idea (and voice and writing style and background), they’ll either request a proposal, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript. If they don’t like your query letter, you’ve got to pitch it to another agency/publisher. Unlike a manuscript, which can be edited or reworked if an editor thinks it has promise, you only get one shot with your query. Make it count!

I see a lot of authors who spend months (or years) finishing their book, only to rush through the process of crafting a good, solid query letter. What a waste! If agents/editors turn you down based on a bad query letter, you’ve blown your chance of getting them to read your manuscript. It could be the next bestseller, but they’ll never see it. My advice is to put as much effort into your query as you did your book. If it’s not fabulous, don’t send it until it is.

What elements must all query letters have?
* Great opening hook
* Supplemental information about your book or article (word count, people you interviewed for the article, genre your book falls into, etc.)
* Information about you – aka your “platform”
* A request to send your manuscript or proposal—or for representation in the case of an agent.
* How to contact you

What is the biggest mistake writers make in queries?
Not reading the writers guidelines and tailoring the piece to the publication. I’ll admit that I did this when I was a new writer too—submitted blindly to any publication whose name sounded even remotely related to my topic. One of the examples I use was when I submitted a parenting article to a magazine for senior citizens. Oops! A well-written query pitching an article that’s not a match for the magazine isn’t going to get you any further than a poorly written query.

How do you balance all the different types of writing?
I love the fact that I get variety in my career. A typical day might include me working on articles, editing, greeting cards, or a press release. I think the key is always working on a deadline. It helps you decide what gets priority, and then when you finish, you can move on to something that has a bit more lead time.

Advice for writers?
Seize every opportunity—especially when you first start writing. I remember telling someone about a really high-paying writing gig I got and he said, “Wow. You have the best luck!” I thought, “Luck has nothing to do with it! I’ve worked hard to get where I am.” Later that week I read this great quote: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” It’s absolutely true. And writing queries is only about luck in this sense. If you’re prepared with a good query and/or manuscript, when the opportunity comes along you’ll be successful.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Everything! I should have been reading and following writers’ guidelines to increase my chances of getting published (and save me on postage!). I should have been focusing on higher-paying markets instead of hoping to sell a poem for $10. And I should have quit my job and had faith in myself that I could make it as a full-time writer.

Wendy Burt-Thomas

Tags:
16 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Wendy Burt-Thomas 9 years ago

    Thanks so much for having me! Love to “be around” other writers – even if only virtually. ; )

  2. Anonymous 9 years ago

    Mom Blogs – Blogs for Moms…

  3. […] Write On! Online and The Write Environment are pleased to join forces for this contest, designed to help writers jump-start their careers. Sponsors include The Writers Store, iScript, Blake Snyder and Save the Cat, and more. For tips on writing a good query letter, read the Write On! Online Author Q&A with The Query Queen Wendy Burt-Thomas. […]

  4. […] ¬† Wendy Burt-Thomas, The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters http://writeononline.com/2009/05/01/author-qa-wendy-burt-thomas-the-writer%E2%80%99s-digest-guide-to… […]

  5. […] For a complete list of Prizes, Details, and¬†Submission Guidelines, click here. For tips on writing a good query letter, read the Write On! Online Author Q&A with The Query Queen Wendy Burt-Thomas. […]

  6. […] ¬† For Tips on Query Writing, check out the Write On! Author Q&A with Wendy Burt Thomas, The Writers Digest Guide to Query […]

  7. […] out the Write On! Author Q&A with Wendy Burt Thomas, The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters: http://writeononline.com/2009/05/01/author-qa-wendy-burt-thomas-the-writer%E2%80%99s-digest-guide-to… Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Detailed interview on query letters!New letters […]

  8. Roberta 8 years ago

    Great advice. Thanks for sharing. Love the cover of your book. Kind of hip retro. 🙂

  9. […] http://www.thewriteenvironment.com. ¬† For tips on writing a good query letter, read the Write On! Online Author Q&A with The Query Queen Wendy Burt-Thomas. ¬† Submit your query to […]

  10. […] Cat!¬Æ Goes to the Movies by Blake Snyder 3rd Place: The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas, compliments of The Writers […]

  11. […] the project, as well as the writer. For tips on writing a good query, read the Write On! Online Author Q&A with The Query Queen Wendy Burt-Thomas. Non-Fiction writers, also read author Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s “Seven Rules for Writing Your […]

  12. […] with the Query Contest—for Books in May and Screenplay in June—we went over what makes for a good query: engaging opening, pitch the story, and pitch yourself. We also discussed the importance of a bio […]

  13. […] A query is the letter sent to a literary agent, editor, or publisher, used to promote the project, as well as the writer. For tips on writing a good query, read the Write On! Online Author Q&A with The Query Queen Wendy Burt-Thomas. […]

  14. […] Read Wendy’s complete Q&A here. […]

  15. […] Wendy Burt-Thomas, author of The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters, gave tips on writing a good query in her Write On! Author Q&A. […]

  16. […] of The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters, gave tips on writing a good query in a previous Write On! Author Q&A. Here is some of her […]

EMAIL DEBRA

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, ASAP. Thanks!

Sending

Copyright © 2017 Debra Eckerling, Write On Online, All Rights Reserved.

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?