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Day 15 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway: Wendy Burt-Thomas

In this post, Wendy Burt-Thomas admits in this post to being “practical and linear.” And she helped me start treating my writing career a lot more practically, as well. I also met my husband in her writing workshop…almost twelve years ago. Whether she’s writing or matchmaking, I think you’ll agree—she’s got the write stuff.

Wendy Burt-Thomas has made a living as a full-time freelance writer and editor for nearly a decade. (Yep, it’s possible!) With more than 1,000 published pieces and four books, she describes her writing process in three words: “Butt in chair.”

Who says query letters have to be boring? Whether you’re writing to catch the attention of an agent, publisher or magazine editor, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters is a fun but information-packed resource. With more than 25 sample query letters, plenty of do’s and don’ts, and detailed techniques, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters will get you on the path to publication.

Burt admits to being “very practical and linear,” which explains her love for how-to books. “But so many are dry and don’t even hint to the author’s personality,” she says. “My goal was to write a book with so much practical advice that people would have to read it twice, but also enough humor that they’d WANT to.”

Wendy says she loves getting emails from readers who say her book helped them get published. She gets more “fan mail” on the query guide than anything she’s ever written … combined. “I guess that’s not saying much considering I do a lot of writing for small businesses. Nobody ever writes to tell me they loved my piece on low-flow toilets.”

• • •

Ah, query letters. You love writing them…right? Or maybe not. Tell us how you feel about writing queries and/or about selling your words in general. The truth now. No fudging.

Answer in the comments in 50-200 words (no less and no more to qualify to win one of today’s books). Please read the complete rules at least once!

Thanks for participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway! Please bring a friend next time you come. :)

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  • Lara May 15, 2011, 12:03 pm

    Now that I’m getting more published pieces under my belt I don’t hate queries nearly as much as before. I know my writing process better and understand more clearly what makes for a strong article. Yeah, the whole sales thing can be a bit frustrating and scary. But I studied marketing in college, so I find when I switch to a business mindset I can take a much less emotional and more professional stance. Probably the toughest part of a query letter for me is the introductory paragraph. How can I appropriately get an editor’s attention? I know it’s something I need to work on.

    I’ve ready Wendy’s query letter book at least once already and definitely plan to read it again (and again). I can see why she gets the fan mail for it. Thanks for featuring her today, Christina. And thank you, Wendy, for such a helpful book.

  • Katie May 15, 2011, 12:54 pm

    I am brand-new to selling my writing, and when it actually
    does sell, it feels great! The best part for me is that as I sell more, I feel
    like I can legitimately call myself a writer after vaguely wishing that I were
    a writer for years. Plus my mother and daughter are impressed.


    As for queries, I still haven’t started sending out query
    letters, so the timing for this contest is
    perfect for me!

  • Ann Goldberg May 15, 2011, 2:34 pm

     I enjoy writing queries when I know I’ve got a great hook and I’m sure I’m the best person to write the story  and can explain why.
    The problem comes when I haven’t found a great hook yet and although I know I could write a great story, it’s difficult to explain why I’d be better than anyone else.
    I guess it’s a question of practice and self-confidence.

  • Anonymous May 15, 2011, 3:34 pm

     I hate querying. I love getting a positive response. If I queried more, I would probably get more positive responses, yes? Somehow I never have time, though, and writing a blog post is more immediately satisfying, if not lucrative. I’ve had Wendy’s book on my Amazon wish list for a while, though, and I’d love to have it!

  • Anonymous May 15, 2011, 3:45 pm

    To query or not to query. That is the question in today’s traditional versus self-published world. Whether tis nobler – oops, that’s someone else’s speech. 

    The pain and effort of querying for my first novel was considerable. Then I found a brief piece written by literary agent, Noah Lukeman: Rejection doesn’t mean anything. In it he explains that literary agents face rejection every day and if he were to give up after 20 or 30 rejections, many of his book deals would never have been consummated.

    Lukeman’s note along with his corollary – keep on writing – are pinned up right beside my laptop.

  • Malia Jacobson May 15, 2011, 3:47 pm

    I first approached query writing, I’d already been writing articles for years.
    Querying was foreign to me, and oh, how I hated it. Explaining my hook, explaining
    why I was the best person to write the article, and selling my idea seemed to
    take so much longer than it needed to—longer than writing the actual article,
    sometimes. Thankfully, I’ve gotten to the point where writing a query is no big
    deal. I’m interested in checking out Wendy’s book for some new ideas and

  • Viki Noe May 15, 2011, 4:58 pm

    The most important thing for me about querying is to take myself out of it. I can’t take the query personally, because that means I’m already worried about rejection. I have to approach it as a sales pitch. If I can’t , I have to put it away until the next day. The second most important thing for me is multiple submissions: the more I have out there, the less I care about rejection. Of course, the best queries are the ones that come to me: ‘would you write for us?’!

  • Janet Smart May 15, 2011, 5:29 pm

    Oh I would love to win that book. I’m not that crazy about writing query letters. But, I know you have to write a good one in order to get the publisher interested in your manuscript. Getting them interested in looking at your book is about as important as writing it. I’m getting better, but I also need to improve.

  • Erin May 15, 2011, 5:31 pm

    I find querying to be a wonderfully clarifying process.  It forces me to think simply about my complicated book, to see it from the outside, and to show how compelling it truly is.  It also helps me to feel more confident – in a paragraph, my book sounds fabulous!  And in its entirety, it is fabulous!

  • Meryl K Evans May 15, 2011, 6:12 pm

    Queries are one reason why I rarely write for publications. A good query takes time to craft and requires research. You could know a magazine inside out and propose something on topic, and the query doesn’t get accepted. There are a few variables involved in whether a query is accepted and some of them not in your control.

  • Angie A May 15, 2011, 6:44 pm

    I confess. Query letters scare me. My writing is sometimes humorous and sometimes very serious, but when I go to write a query letter I turn into a business robot with no personality, very little to indicate my writing style or interests. I like the idea of a practical guide!  

  • Jenn May 15, 2011, 6:52 pm

    You know, it’s funny, I can write the rough draft of a novel in a snap, but  when I sit down to write a query to a potential agent or publisher, my brain freezes up and panic sets in.  I can write fiction until my fingers bleed, but when it comes to explaining to someone why he or she should read my words, I just can’t do it.  Help!

  • C. S. Jewell May 15, 2011, 7:03 pm

    I have almost zero experience with query letters, despite being a freelance writer for years. I’d be writing more of what I want to write if I could overcome my fear of them–they feel like the written equivalent to cold calling, and I’m not over taking a rejected query as a personal rejection. It’s much easier for me to query people I work for regularly, and I have to build up to send out queries to new places. If I did this more regularly, maybe I would become a bit desensitized to the process–because that’s all it is, part of the writing career process.

  • Anonymous May 15, 2011, 7:27 pm

      I really do not like writing
    query letters because every editor is looking for something slightly different
    and I never know if I am going to make or miss the mark. I do not
    like selling myself either. I am not sure how to sell my words and it has been
    a slow process when I take time to work at sending my work to publishers. So
    far I have two published tips under my belt, whoohoo! J Only one was paid though. Only one was paid though.

  • Rhonda May 15, 2011, 7:47 pm

     The truth is, I love coming up with a great idea, but I don’t particularly like writing queries – or the time it takes to write one.  It’ s not getting the idea down, it’s the worrying about  to word it precisely so that an editor will read it.

    That said, working on a query helps me to think of how to make an article better- developing the idea and organizing the information.

    Thank you for the chance to win!

  • Laura Ackerman May 15, 2011, 8:45 pm

     I have wanted to start my writing career for a long time, but life kept getting in the way.  I decided that this is the year – no more waiting or procrastinating.  Let’s face it, I will never be organized so waiting until I am is futile. 
    I had an idea for an article and wanted to send it to a newspaper.  My friend Melissa suggested a local magazine as well.  She told me to send a query letter.  A what?  Oh yeah, that thing Christina talked about in her book, Writer Mama, which incidentally Melissa made me go buy a few months ago.  I looked up query letters in the book, typed up a query and sent it to the two destinations.  Within a few weeks, I had a go ahead from the local magazine and a meeting with the newspaper editor.  So do I love them?  Why yes, yes I do!  Thank you Melissa and Christina for the support and guidance I needed.  Now I’m not published yet, but I am currently working on the two articles for submission.

  • Annelise Kelly May 15, 2011, 10:28 pm

    Writing queries is both an engaging activity and a
    discouraging chore. It’s engaging because it really is a crucial beginning to
    any article—once a good query is written the article is half done! It’s
    discouraging because so many queries never get any response whatsoever—it’s
    hard to maintain enthusiasm when I anticipate having to do lots of fruitless
    pestering before giving up, reworking it, and moving on.

  • Cara Holman May 15, 2011, 11:34 pm

    The long and short of it is, I don’t really enjoy writing query
    letters. It feels too much like I’m selling myself, not my words. And to
    be perfectly honest, I don’t like the feeling that I’m selling my
    words, either. I write. Period. And although I gratefully accept
    compensation for my writing, that has never been the primary reason why I

    My favorite method of submission is via an email or an online form,
    and perhaps that is one of the many reasons I feel so drawn to submit to
    the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The submission process via their
    website is no muss, no fuss, and to receive compensation on top of the
    exposure of being published in a best-selling series is icing on the

  • Frogsinmyformula May 16, 2011, 1:22 am

    I dislike writing queries. Perhaps I should practice them more, but they always seem daunting. Truthfully, I’d rather write job cover letters. I’d love to read Wendy’s book and perhaps rethink my outlook.

  • Heather May 16, 2011, 3:47 am

    I haven’t been brave enough yet to send a query letter, so this book would really help me get started down the right road.   I have some great articles for magazines and really don’t know how to get the attention of the editors to get my stuff in print. 

  • Krystenlindsay May 16, 2011, 4:49 am

     I get nervous writing queries because I never know if I put the right hook in the summary and put enough in to gain interest. The only good part about it is sometimes writing my bio part can make me feel a little more accomplished because I see in front of me what I have done. Each time I send one out I feel like I’m yelling, “like me, like me, please like me!”

  • Mar Junge May 16, 2011, 4:58 am

    Writing query emails is easier when you’re getting paid to do it.  Our PR clients have budgets for us to place articles in the trade magazines and business newspapers. First we send the editors a “what do you think of this story idea?” email. If they like it, we send an abstract and outline. We place three or four articles a month. We enjoy doing queries because when the article is accepted, we celebrate. And if an editor doesn’t like one idea, we try another. Being able to produce targeted queries is essential to making a living as a writer.

  • Wendy Burt-Thomas May 16, 2011, 2:19 pm

    Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate you saying it was helpful. I think that’s one of the best things a how-to book author can hear!

  • Wendy Burt-Thomas May 16, 2011, 2:22 pm

    I tell people to read Stephen King’s “On Writing” if they think rejections mean “stop writing.” I don’t read horror but I love Stephen King for this book alone.

  • Wendy Burt-Thomas May 16, 2011, 2:27 pm

     I love this approach, Erin. It’s like crafting an elevator speech for your business!

  • Wendy Burt-Thomas May 16, 2011, 2:30 pm

    Sometimes I take the funny opening from the actual article and make it the first paragraph of my query. Then I simply say, “The above paragraph is the opening for my article ‘Horse Feathers; When scientists turn bad,” a 1,500-word humorous article about lab experiments gone wrong.” 
    Keeps the robots away!

  • Jeanine May 16, 2011, 8:38 pm

    I enjoy writing query letters because it forces me to wow a publisher with just a few words.