SLAP Your Queries

Writers prefer to write. More than once, I’ve heard a writer bemoan the process of writing a query letter. I have even said writing the query is the hardest part. Then I figured out how to SLAP my queries. This method has helped me go from getting no response or slow response to getting on-spec and full assignments.

How do you SLAP your queries? Follow this four-step process:

1. Summarize your project. What are you proposing to your client? How long will it take you to complete it? This paragraph should be no longer than three to five sentences. If it takes you longer than that, you need to tighten it.

2. List relevant credentials. Don’t try to put your entire CV in this paragraph. Editors don’t want your entire history. They want to know what makes you the person to write the article or book. Unless you’re writing about designing a playroom for children, there’s no need to say how many kids you have of your own. Membership in professional organizations counts as a credential.

3. Ask for the assignment. Not all queries result in getting an assignment, but one thing is for certain: You won’t get it if you don’t ask for it. In a query, “I look forward to hearing from you” is a way of asking for the assignment. However, do not call for a follow-up unless you have already established a working relationship with the editor.

4. Provide a portfolio of clips as samples of your previous work. You’ve told how you would approach the assignment. You’ve listed your credentials to show how/why you’re the best person for it. How can the editor see your previous work to know if you’re really a good fit for them or not? Provide a portfolio of previous work. Have a print portfolio and a virtual one where you can give editors a link to view your portfolio online. In the paragraph where you list your credentials, provide a list of links to three of your most recent or relevant clips. Do not send clips as an attachment unless you have been specifically asked to do so. Otherwise, the chances are much higher that your query will be deleted unread.

A couple final words about queries: Send out more than one. C. Hope Clark has said she keeps 13 circulating at all times. Other successful writers keep more or fewer out. The point is, the more you send out, the more likely your chances are of landing an assignment. Pay attention, though, and be sure you don’t spread yourself too thin. Also, since a query is a business letter, it should not run past one page. If it does, take another look at it and pare it down.

Go ahead. Find a market you want to write for and SLAP it.