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THE WACKY WRITER

Volume I, Issue I
November 8, 1998
Copyright 1998 by Jo Loving Gann

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IN THIS ISSUE:

1. Welcome – Jo Loving Gann, Editor

2. How to Write a Query Letter

3. Tip of the Month

4. Submission Guidelines

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1. Welcome

WELCOME to the first issue of THE WACKY WRITER. I started this monthly newsletter to help writers hone their craft, learn more about the ‘business’ side of writing, highlight the work of writers, and present interviews with publishing professionals. Basically, I felt there was a gap in newsletters for writers, and was put off by advertisements. This truly is a newsletter for you. I’ve made a commitment to keep THE WACKY WRITER free of advertisements. You won’t find me hawking this or that book, nor will you find a commercial flavor to any of the articles. What you will find is my attempt to help inform you of opportunities and, in the process of researching articles, learn a little myself. It is my firm belief that “We teach what we need to learn.” To that end, I hope some of you will share your knowledge in future issues so we can build a body of knowledge and a group in which to share that knowledge.

In this first issue, I’ll explore with you the intricacies of The Query Letter, share a tip of the month, and discuss submission guidelines for future issues. This is a new venture for me, and I am very open to your suggestions.

The next issue will feature an interview with Doris Booth, Editor-in-Chief of Authorlink, a unique web-based method of matching editors and agents with writers. In addition, I’ll include an article I’ve written, titled “Rejections – How to make the best of them.” I’m open for submissions, the guidelines for which are provided at the end of the newsletter.

Thank you for subscribing to THE WACKY WRITER. I look forward to your input, and hope this publication will be beneficial to all of you.

Warmest Regards,

Jo Loving Gann

Editor, THE WACKY WRITER Newsletter

Webmaster, Wacky Writer's World

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2. HOW TO WRITE A QUERY LETTER by Jo Loving Gann

You’re on an airplane, flying back from your visit with your Great Aunt Greta, when you pick up the latest edition of the airline magazine from the seat pocket in front of you. You’re tired, and flip through the pages just to pass the time and keep the chatty person to your left at bay. You come across an intriguing article about Zanzibar, which entertains you for the next ten minutes. Nice pictures, tight, well-written sentences. Next is an essay about the weary traveler. Once you finish that, you learn more than you ever wanted to know about packing for a safari. Then it hits you. YOU could write for this magazine. Your writing is tight, you take pictures on your many trips, and you’re quite familiar with the market, as you just happen to be one of the lucky people who takes to the friendly skies several times each month. So what do you do? Dash home from the airport, singing “We’re in the money, We’re in the money?” Run through the door to your office, madly write your article, put it along with photos in an envelope, add postage, and hurry to the post office to get it to the publisher as quickly as possible? No. This is a sure way to find a rejection notice waiting for you, provided you included a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) in your mailing.

So how DO you get an editor to clamor for your work? You write a professional, creative, focused query letter proposing an article. A query letter is actually a sales pitch to an editor. You want to interest him or her in your idea, eventually resulting in a request for you to write and/or submit your article for publication. Before you write your query, you need to do a little homework. Get copies of the publication. Take a look at the masthead, topics, style, and tone. When you examine the masthead, note the names of the editor-in-chief, as well as other editors and editorial assistants. Request submission guidelines from the publication, or look them up in WRITER’S MARKET, another market guide, or on the Internet. Read them carefully. Make sure you can comply with these guidelines, because they are very important to the editors.

Still convinced that you would like to submit an article? You need to begin developing your query letter. Don’t expect to dash off a letter that says, “Dear Editor, Enclosed is my article, “How to Make Paper Airplanes from Airline Magazines” for your consideration. Unprofessionally yours, John Q. Writer.” Remember that this letter is your commercial. You want to “grab” the editor’s attention, hold it, and close the deal as quickly as possible. You have one page in which to do this.

The query letter serves as a showcase for your unique style, professionalism, and ability to clearly convey information. Do not take this lightly. Many writers take more time composing a query letter than they take to write the article itself. The same rules for writing an article, essay, or other creative effort. Write the letter, read it aloud, rewrite it, read it aloud, rewrite it, and, once you’re satisfied that it represents the best you can do, send it on. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

1. Introduce your topic in a way that ‘grabs’ the editors attention from the start. The writing should be tight and crisp.

2. Write a paragraph or two in which you provide the details of your proposed article. Remember to point out what makes you the best person to write this article. If you have already conducted or propose to conduct interviews, be sure and provide your sources.

3. Your tone should exude confidence, but you should not be overconfident, or try a ‘hard sell’.

4. Include clips from your published articles. If you don’t have any, omit any wording (no matter how tempting) that refers to your inexperience in the field – you don’t need to explain this to editors, as it marks you as an amateur.

5. Keep the letter to one page.

6. Always include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the editor’s reply.

What will a query letter look like? Here’s a sample:

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John Q. Writer
2500 Proust Drive
Grisham, MS 12345

November 9, 1998

Jane Powers, Editor
AIRWAY Magazine
Sky Plaza
New York, NY 10001

Dear Ms. Powers:

The little boy in the seat next to me was struggling to hold back his tears. He was alone. I looked at him, wringing the magazine in his hands as he looked forlornly out the window. I asked, “Are you okay?”

He looked up at me as a big tear slowly rolled down his cheek. His lip quivered as he said, “No, sir. This is my first trip by myself. I’m going to see my Grandma in Vermont.” Still twisting the magazine, he turned his face toward the window in silence.

I picked up the AIRWAY Magazine from the seat pocket in front of me and began leafing through. As I flipped the pages, the beautiful colors and slick paper struck me. I was ten years old again. I tore out page after page, and started folding the intricate paper airplanes of my youth. The little boy was entranced, and started tearing his own pages, asking me how to make each airplane. Before we knew it, the tray tables and seat backs were up, the landing gear down, and we were taxiing to our gate. He slowly gathered his airplanes and put them in his backpack. Then he smiled, looked up at me, and said, “Thanks, Mister.” He didn’t have to say anything – the experience was fun for me, too.

Every year, 52,000 children travel unaccompanied to various destinations throughout the United States. As a parent, my own children flew to see distant relatives on a regular basis. My 2000-word article, “Airline Travel Tips for Kids – and their Parents,” highlights safety ideas, entertainment options, and confidence builders for the young traveler. Since many parents fly Quantum Airlines, I believe they can gain insight from the article and equip their young travelers for solo trips to see Mom, Dad, or Grandma.

I believe this article is a perfect candidate for your ‘Family Focus’ feature. In reading your back issues, I detected a gap in articles useful in helping parents with a checklist for unaccompanied minors on your airline.

I have written feature articles for Traveler’s Rest Magazine. Clips are available upon request. I appreciate your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Respectfully Submitted,

John Q. Writer

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I hope this article has helped you. For more information on query letters, there are a variety of guides. Consult current and back issues of Writer’s Market, look at articles in writer’s magazines, and search the Internet for further examples and tips.

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3. TIP OF THE MONTH

In the above article, I mention writer’s guidelines and/or submission guidelines. There are many sources for them, but I found an online site with a well-presented, searchable database. The Writer’s Guidelines Database is an excellent resource for writers.

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4. SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

I welcome submissions to THE WACKY WRITER. Here are the terms and conditions:

You may submit a short piece of 500 words or less. Include it in the text of an email, not as an attachment. I’ll consider it for inclusion in the newsletter. Any work of fiction or nonfiction within the word limit will be considered, but only two of these submissions will be included in each month’s newsletter. Acceptable submissions do not include erotica or excessive profanity (as determined subjectively by the editor.)

Any copyright of your submission remains with you, not with THE WACKY WRITER. The Newsletter is copyrighted as a whole work, but you retain your individual rights. You did the work, and you keep the rights.

If you want critiques or comments from others, just say so with your submission, and I’ll include your email address.

This is a free newsletter, and I do not accept advertisements. As such, I am unable to pay contributors in cash. I will, however, send the author two copies of the print version of the newsletter as well as exposure to the subscriber base.

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NEXT MONTH IN THE WACKY WRITER:

1. Interview with Doris Booth, Editor-in-Chief, Authorlink.

2. ‘Rejections, How to Make the Best of Them’

3. More Tips

4. Quote of the Month

5. Q&A

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You have just finished reading THE WACKY WRITER, a newsletter for writers. THE WACKY WRITER is associated with WACKY WRITER’S WORLD, an online website for writers. Comments about THE WACKY WRITER can be directed to Jo Loving Gann.

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