Key Traits & Characteristics of Winning Query Letters

Welcome to Part 3 of Query Letters That Work!

Image result for query letterwinning query letter has two primary objectives:

  1. To persuade the agent or editor to want more from you
  2. To provide the editor or agent with a way to easily get in touch with you

As we’ve explored earlier in the Query Letters That Work! Mini-Course, following the specific process for writing, formatting and presenting your query letter can go a long way toward achieving these goals.  To further help you improve your chances; you’ll want to pay attention to some of the common traits and characteristics of successful query letters.

Own Your Business

Think of yourself as the owner of your own business; as a writer, that’s precisely what you are!  How would the CEO of your company communicate with other business professionals?  From beginning to end, all of your communication with others in the industry should be polite and professional in tone.  Regardless of the outcome, treat the representatives of the publication or agency you are querying with respect and professionalism.  You never know when they just might be in a position to help (or hold back!) your career in the future; and a positive and professional manner can go a long way.

In business, as in life, never burn bridges that you don’t absolutely have to.

Do Your Homework

A winning query letter always shows that the writer did his or her homework.  Always. Remember, this is a business; your business.  Even if it’s not your full-time “job”, from the very moment you “announce” your intent to publish, your writing becomes a business and when dealing with others in the industry, you need to treat it as such.

  • Would you go to work for a company before knowing the benefits or even what you’re salary will be?
  • In your business, would you spend big bucks to market a product or service without first finding out if the demand exists?
  • Would you spend your time and effort developing a product without knowing if anyone even wanted it, needed it or would buy it?

You don’t want to market your “product” to an audience who may not even be in the market for what you’re selling.  Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send unsolicited queries; by all means, send away!  What it does mean however, is you need to know exactly who it is you are, and should be, selling to.  Never assume you know what a publication is about simply by its name or even something you saw or read on “Joe Blo’s” web site.  Do yourself a favor and do the research!  And, view it for what it is – an investment in yourself and your career.  Now that’s a worthwhile investment!

Before submitting your query, you should know who it is you’re submitting to and have a pretty good idea of what it is they want.

A few tips for researching and getting to know your audience:

  • Review a copy of the magazine or publication
    • Buy a copy or if you can, buy several different issues or editions.
    • Many publications will allow you to purchase a single edition at a special rate for writers.
    • A few (very few) publications will provide a complimentary copy to freelance writers, upon request.
  • Request a media or press kit from the publication
    • A media or press kit is something publications put together primarily for advertisers and includes demographics of its readership.  This kit contains a goldmine of information for writers, such as:
      • Sex and age of the publication’s audience
      • Median household income
      • Upcoming topic issues and submission schedules (Bingo!)
    • Study the website of the agency or publication!

The most successful query letters contain a single pitch only!  Don’t include multiple topic or book pitches in the same letter.  And, don’t send any additional queries to the same publication or agency until you’ve received some type of reply or feedback first.

Another key characteristic of successful query letters is a sound (and sane!) approach.  Don’t embellish!  No fluff. No over exaggerated comparisons.  No empty words.  Excite your audience with sound, skilled writing and by proposing a topic of interest to the readers.

Combining the traits and characteristics reviewed here with all that you’ve learned so far in The Query Letters That Work! Mini-Course, can definitely give you a leg up on much of the competition.

Ready. Set. ACTION!

Keep writing; compose sample query letters and do a step-by-step comparison with what you’ve learned.  Make note of any missing components and areas that need work.  Re-work your letter and compare again.  Keep trying; and always remember . . .

Practice Makes Progress!


  • What to Do if You’ve Never Been Published and Don’t Have Writing Credentials
  • A Word to the Wise:  Important Do’s and Don’ts – Tips and Warnings
  • Sample Query Letters
  • Final Thoughts:  Bringing it All Together and Things to Remember

Stay tuned!
And, as always . . .
Keep Writing!

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