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Pen IN Hand
January, 2008

Awaken The Author Within

The Darn Good Query Letter
Formal and fantastic
By  Peggy Bechko

The query letter is a sales tool, a way of selling the agent on the idea that he or she wants to represent your work. You have literally only seconds to grab this prospective agentís attention so the first sentence or two must hook this agent into reading further.

First, the query letter is a formal meeting. You donít know the agent yet, so approach the situation that way. Be respectful and formal. That means you donít start with ďHowdy Al!Ē Rather, you begin with Dear Mr./Ms. Smith, and use a colon instead of a comma following the formal address. It also means youíve already done your research and have pinpointed a name within the agency to whom to send this query Ė not, "Dear Sir or Madam."
Make your introduction like a professional. Donít introduce yourself first; rather, introduce your work. Your name will only be important if the agent is truly hooked and ready to read your manuscript. The first sentence of the first paragraph is where you hook Ďem. A powerful line from your book, perhaps even the first one is good. If you can work it into a question, something that is provocative, you should be able to give this person something to consider; not an answer to the question youíve raised, but a reason to read on. If youíre good with cutting to the bone, then a succinct blurb may work well for you as an alternative to a gripping line from your book.
Okay, you hooked your potential agent. Next you use a couple of paragraphs to tell him what the book is about. Donít go into detail; keep it broad, and unless thereís a very compelling reason to do so, donít reveal the ending. Donít try to tell the agent how wonderful you are. Focus on the story and avoid flowery adjectives. Be sure to mention what kind of a story it is Ė a romance, suspense, sci-fi, whatever it is.
By now, the agent is ready to request your manuscript. Now is the time to expand the picture with details of the length of the manuscript and a bit about you. Simply and directly state your background, writing credits (if you don't have any, leave that unsaid), and any special qualifications that might give you outstanding expertise with the story youíre presenting.
Close the letter by asking if the agent is willing to read your manuscript, and if so, how it should be presented (snail mail paper or CD, email, whatever). Politely offer your thanks for their time and consideration. If youíve done your homework and know the agency requests sample pages, donít forget to include them. State whether you want the pages returned to you. If you do, then include an envelope the correct size with sufficient postage. Proof your letter carefully for spelling errors and other mistakes and remember all this needs to fit on one page, two only if you really, really need to.
Finally, put it all together and send it off. You may not hear back for a month. If you donít hear in that time, a brief inquiry would not be inappropriate. If your query is rejected, either it wasnít the type of story the agency is looking to represent or the query wasnít intriguing enough for the agent to ask to see more. Reread it, rethink it, and try again.
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Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (eBook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating on a animated series.

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IN This Issue
Cha, Cha, Cha, Changes!
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Writers Write
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Get A Clue
How Not To Query
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Writerís Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails weíve known;
Each writerís block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

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What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
Itís how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Donít plant your poem on the page
As though youíre hanging drapes;
Itís shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their ďthemes.Ē

Double Vision
A writerís life is paradox,
Itís more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

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Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know youíll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poemís through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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