Advice is like, well, you know what… everybody has some.
If you browse the Internet, you can find countless articles on how to write a query. You can buy books on the subject. You can go to workshops. Funny thing, many of the people giving advice have barely been published themselves.
Full disclosure — my publishing credits are minimal at best. I’ve written only one successful query and that was for a series of devotions that paid me a whopping total of $50.
However, this weekend, I sat down with Hank Nuwer, who has published 25 books and over 2000 articles. He started by saying, “No one else is going to tell you to write queries this way…” And in less than 20 minutes, he revealed an approach that makes perfect sense to me, and has obviously been proven effective time and time again.
Hank said first to call the publisher and speak with the secretary (or assistant) to the editor. Find out if s/he prefers e-mail or snail mail queries. If s/he prefers letter, begin with a cover letter (if e-mail, include this as the body of the message). The cover letter should be a 2-3 paragraph “sales pitch” briefly describing the book or article and explaining why it should be published in this particular venue.
To give you an example of a cover letter, here is one I am sending to Westminster/John Knox later today –
Dear Mr. Dobson
My name is Tony Roberts and I have completed a 40,000 word spiritual memoir called Delight in Disorder: Meditations from a Bipolar Mind. It is the story of my life-long struggle with Bipolar and the role faith in Christ has played. I was diagnosed when I was a full-time pastor and God blessed me with the support of my family, friends, and the church so I could serve another dozen fruitful years in ministry. The memoir is full of hope in Christ, yet deals honestly with subjects such as parental neglect, a suicide attempt, and marital separation.
Delight in Disorder picks up where Amy Simpson’s Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission leaves off. While Simpson unleashes a prophetic challenge in response to the church’s treatment of her mentally ill mother, I bless my church for its care and faithfulness and thus show other churches how it can be done.
Primarily, though, my memoir is a meditation on how faith and mental illness can co-exist, sometimes fueling each other to dangerous
distortion, sometimes feeding each other to fruitful gain. My confessional approach to Scripture is geared to a lay reader — both within and beyond the church. I have found my writing appeals to Christians, non-Christians, agnostics, even atheists who wrestle with Bipolar.
I have attached a brief bio, a synopsis with introduction, and an autobiographical prelude. The complete manuscript of Delight in Disorder is ready and I would be happy to send it to you on request.
Thank you for your consideration,
(next post: “Writing a Query: A Brief Bio”)