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between query and manuscript

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Post originally by Charlie Dunwoody at 2005-04-11 08:33:15
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I agree with Lloyd Brown that a query is critical to getting writing assignments. I'm hoping in his next column that he covers the proposal as the step between query and manuscript.

The last two writing assignments I pursued involved sending a proposal with more detail after my query was read. What rules will you be adding, what new things will players be able to do with this book etc. Especially on a longer manuscript, some publishers want more detail after getting interested in a query.

Charlie
 
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Post originally by Lloyd Brown at 2005-04-11 12:54:21
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Good point, Charlie, and I address the book proposal in an upcoming article in fair detail. In fact, if I remember my schedule right, it IS the next column due. Thanks for reading!
 
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Make it even better

Post originally by DeDiceManCometh at 2005-04-11 13:46:58
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I think this letter could be further improved by eliminating the negative and tentative references. The first instance of negativity is tough to fix, because not having any writing credits is a negative that is hard to avoid; but you can still soften the negative by removing the NOT from the verb to the tacit negative in the prefix UN-, thus:

"I haven't been published, but my posts on your message board have been well-received." --->
"Although I am currently unpublished, my posts on your...."

This is a good example of removing weak, tentative language which has no place in sales pitch language (of course, you don't want to sound overconfident, either).

"I've written numerous term papers for college that exceeded 20,000 words, so I think I can manage a book this size." ---> "...so I'm sure I can manage a book of this size." See? That isn't overweening hubris, it's a reasonable and confident assessment.

Here is a way to make the final sentence very positive in tone:
"I do have a day job, so my work time is limited. It might take as long as 10 months to complete the manuscript." --->
"Even taking into consideration the time constraints of my day job, I can still complete this manuscript in ten months or less."
 
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RE: Make it even better

Post originally by LBrownIII at 2005-04-11 13:51:50
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Good cleanup. A bit more advanced than I wanted for a first column, but it's never too early for good habits. I do plan to present a stronger query letter later after some other basic topics. Thanks for the input!
 
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RE: Make it even better

Post originally by Karro at 2005-04-13 11:35:36
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I've got to agree and appreciate Dice Man's comments. My first reaction upon reading the sample query letter was that it was seriously about to get ripped a new one.

I personally found it sounding very weak, and if I were an editor I'd pass on this in a heartbeat unless I absolutely ~had~ to have a Manual of the Planes and I had no one else to do it.

Dice Man's corrections addressed my primary concerns, which was where the writing was weakest and perhaps betrayed a lack of competancy and self-assurance. Even his second listed improvement could stand some strengthening. "I think I can" and "I'm sure I can" are neither very good options, as neither suggests very much confidence (both betray a hint of doubt in the writer's abilities). I might make the suggestion as follows:

"I've written numerous term papers for college that exceeded 20,000 words, and success with these projects demonstrates my ability to handle a long-term project of this size."

That is, of course, assuming you did ~well~ on all those term papers ;)

Anyway, I think the topic for the column is a great idea, and I look forward to more to come. As an aspiring freelancer who, admittedly, has never been published (or more accurately, hasn't submitted anything, due largely to a lack of time to dedicate to writing projects) I'd greatly look forward to a sequence of articles on how to manage holding down a full-time day job, an active social life, and a host of other responsibilities that can't be ignored in order to find time to devote to a budding freelance career.

Stephen
 
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RE: Make it even better

Post originally by Justin Dagna at 2005-04-15 09:37:02
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You guys have some excellent ideas for improving the letter.

However, as someone who's received a few query letters, I can say that the two most important things I'm looking for are
1) people who aren't wasting my time (i.e. they get to the point clearly and concisely)
2) people who haven't made the obvious mistakes (in other words, once you've eliminated the really bad stuff, adding good stuff is only marginally helpful.)

If those two factors don't turn me off, it's going to come down to whether I'm interested in the project or not and that's something the query letter can't really affect. It has more to do with my budget, other projects, personal interests, etc.

And that may be the most important lesson for freelancers: you will face a lot of rejection, and you have to remember they're not rejecting YOU.
 
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RE: Make it even better

Post originally by Lloyd Brown at 2005-04-20 10:30:44
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Justin discovered my key point here. A query letter doesn't get you a check. It gets you to the next step in the process. In that regard, it's really just an opportunity to screw up. The goal is to get through it without costing yourself an opportunity.
 
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