The Query Letter Clinic

Query Letter ClinicI’m excited to share that we have a new feature article on Artist’s Market Online: The Query Letter Clinic. Although most artists, designers and photographers feel that they express themselves best visually, the query letter is still an important part of any submission. Check out the Query Letter Clinic to learn the elements of a query letter, things to avoid in a query letter, how to format a query letter, when and how to follow up and to see query letter examples. You can also see an excerpt from the Query Letter Clinic below.

Keep creating and good luck!

Mary

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THE QUERY LETTER CLINIC

Many great creatives ask year after year, “Why is it so hard to sell my work?’’ In many cases, these artists, designers and photographers have spent years—and possibly thousands of dollars on supplies and courses—developing their craft. They submit to the appropriate markets, yet rejection is always the end result. The culprit? A weak query letter.

The query letter is often the most important piece of the art-selling puzzle. In many cases, it determines whether an art buyer or rep will even look at your work. A good query letter makes a good first impression; a bad query letter earns a swift rejection.

THE ELEMENTS OF A QUERY LETTER

A query letter should sell art buyers or reps on your creative idea or convince them to request more images from your portfolio. The most effective query letters get into the specifics from the very first line. It’s important to remember that the query is a call to action, not a listing of features and benefits.

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THINGS TO AVOID IN A QUERY LETTER

The query letter is not a place to discuss pay rates. This step comes after an art buyer has agreed to take on your work. Besides making an unprofessional impression on an art buyer, it can also work to your disadvantage in negotiating your fee. If you ask for too much, an art buyer may not even contact you to see if a lower rate might work. If you ask for too little, you may start a business relationship where you are making far less than the normal rate.

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HOW TO FORMAT YOUR QUERY LETTER

You should follow basic writing rules when it comes to crafting an effective query. Here are guidelines for query writing.

•    Use a normal font and typeface, such as Times New Roman and 10- or 12-point type.
•    Include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and website, if possible.
•    Use a one-inch margin on paper queries.
•    Address a specific editor or agent. (Note: The listings in Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market and Photographer’s Market provide a contact name for most submissions. It’s wise to double-check contact names online or by calling.)
•    Limit query letter to one single-spaced page.
•    Include self-addressed, stamped envelope or postcard for response with post submissions. Use block paragraph format (no indentations). Thank the art buyer for considering your query.

WHEN AND HOW TO FOLLOW UP

Accidents do happen. Queries may not reach your intended reader. Staff changes or interoffice mail snafus may end up with your query letter thrown away. Or the art buyer may have set your query off to the side for further consideration and forgotten it. Whatever the case may be, there are some basic guidelines you should use for your follow-up communication.

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HOW THE CLINIC WORKS

As mentioned earlier, the query letter is the most important weapon for getting an assignment or a request for your full portfolio. Successful creatives know how to craft a well-written, hard-hitting query. What follows are two queries: one is strong; one is not. Detailed comments show what worked and what did not.

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Adapted from the 2014 edition of Writer’s Market. Used with the kind permission of Writer’s Digest Books, an imprint of F+W Media, Inc. Visit writersdigestshop.com to obtain a copy.

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