The deadline for the 3rd Annual Write On! Query Contest is Tuesday, May 31. Categories are: Fiction Book, Non-Fiction Book, Teleplay, and Screenplay.

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.

Writers Digest Guide to Query LettersWhat 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.

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.

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Email your one-page query to Debra@WriteOnOnline.com by May 31.

Winners in the Fiction and Non-Fiction Book categories will have their queries read by Los Angeles literary agent Amy Wilder Drake, BJ Robbins Literary Agency. The winner the Screenplay category will have his or her query letter read by Los Angeles literary agent David Boxerbaum of APA. The winner the Teleplay category will have his or her query letter read by John Martini, producer at BBC Worldwide Productions. Each of the four winners will choose one of four books from Michael Wiese Productions as their prize. Details here.

Winners will be announced on Monday, June 6, on Write On! Online, and in the June Write On! Newsletter. Submit your query today!

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