A Review of A Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals by Moira Anderson Allen

If you have a serious piece of work like a novel to sell, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals is a necessity in order to ensure you maximise your chances of getting your book read by an agent or publisher. If you want to market other types of work, create a non-fiction book, write for magazines or newspapers, produce a column or syndicate, this book is also a necessity, as query letter are increasingly becoming the front door to gaining writing work.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals
by Moira Anderson Allen
Allworth Press
2001, Paperback, 288pages
ISBN 1-58115-099-7
RRP $16.95

“The ability to write a good query is one of the most important skills a writer can develop. A good query shows that you can write and that you are a professional – qualities that may result in an assignment even if the editor can’t use your original proposal. Think of a query as your letter of introduction: if you make a good impression, you are likely to be invited back. If you make a bad impression, you may find that door forever closed.” Do you think of the query as aftermath? The last, and least important part of producing and selling a piece of writing? Think again. In many instances, it is the query which will get you a writing job in the first place, and a good query or pitch can be the only difference between being a writer and being a published writer. Many markets prefer to see a query to a finished piece of work, and a whole non-fiction book contract can be won by query. Seriously experienced author Allen concentrates her entire book The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals on the query, providing clear and specific guidelines on how to create a perfectly written query, pitch or proposal for a range of different writing areas.

There are chapters on making your pitch stand out above the competition’s for any kind of proposal, querying periodicals (including the perfect 5 step query: the hook, pitch, body, credentials and close), sending an e-mail query (when the rules change completely), querying newspapers, writing column proposals, selling a column syndication, becoming an international columnist, writing a non-fiction book proposal, pitching your non-fiction book to international book publishers, writing a fiction or novel proposal, writing an agent query, writing a synopsis (a fairly complex undertaking), setting up a book or work display website, e-and self-publishing your work, and other forms of self-promotion like speaking, teaching, conducting online chats, business writing and writing grant applications. There is a lot of information here, both to help you write queries for the work you are currently producing, and to stimulate ideas for how you might expand your writing to other areas. Each chapter contains extensive lists of relevant links and a number of real, well written examples of the types of queries the chapter has covered.

Some of the advice which keeps coming up is surprisingly obvious such as “follow the guidelines”, “research (read) your market” and don’t get dejected by rejection, but as an experienced editor, Allen knows that these are the most common areas for failure by amateur and experienced authors and they continue to be disregarded. Allen’s writing style is lucid, easy to follow and very practical in application. Her considerable experience in editing websites likeInkspot, Inklings and her own site Writing-World.com shows in her advice, which draws on both her knowledge of what editors want and what writers need. Where Allen’s own experience falls short, she employs similarly experienced writers including among others, columnist Amy Chavez, novelist Rebecca Vineyard and Pet Expert Amy Shojair, whose sample queries, articles and guides further enrich the value of this book. The query or pitch is not an add-on part or the writing process – it is critical, and something that many creative writers know little about (judging from the number of poorly written review queries I receive – and I’m pretty relaxed about form). Allen’s excellent and thorough reference will help any writer improve their chances of a sale and perhaps more importantly, target their work better. If you have a serious piece of work like a novel to sell, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals is a necessity in order to ensure you maximise your chances of getting your book read by an agent or publisher. If you want to market other types of work, create a non-fiction book, write for magazines or newspapers, produce a column or syndicate, this book is also a necessity, as query letter are increasingly becoming the front door to gaining writing work.

For more information on The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals, visit: Writer’s Guide to Queries

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