The Query Letter – Write Your Way to Fame and Fortune 🙂
Hello. Joshua Boswell here with Copywriter Marketer. This is our video newsletter series and today I’m going to talk about the famous, the infamous, the all-powerful, the amazing query letter. What’s the big deal about the query letter? As I’ve written up here, the query letter is your way to write your way into fame and fortune. In other words, this is a main staple, center point, the engine that drives a lot of your efforts to become an expert in a given field. Now this isn’t the only way to become an expert, but boy, it sure is a great one. I want to explain to you what it is and a little bit about how to use it today.
First thing is, what is this query letter? The query letter in a nutshell is a letter that you send out to publishers or media outlets of various shapes and sizes and demographics and dynamics in order to get them to publish your information, so that your target audience can read it and perceive you as an expert.
As an example, you might send a query letter out to a magazine. Let’s get more specific. Let’s say that you wanted to be an expert writer in the technology field. You wanted to write for business-to-business technology companies. Companies like B2B or Wired. There’s other company magazines out there. You would send out a query letter to these guys and say, “Hey, I’ve got an interesting article for your readers. Can I publish it?” They would say, “Sure, we’ll publish that,” and they’ll put your byline on it. We’ll talk about that in just a minute. Then when people read the article, they’re like, “Wow, this Joshua Boswell guy is really, really smart. We should hire him to do our writing. We should hire him to do our marketing efforts. We should hire this guy to help us with our communication stuff.”
You see? You get the picture? You send it out. You get published or you get an interview. You get a TV appearance. Then your target audience reads that, watches that, listens to that, and is inspired by the amazing amount of information that you have in your head and wants to hire you.
Let’s talk about what you do to create that query letter. There are four basic elements of a query letter.
The first basic element is the actual introduction. What do I mean by the actual introduction? Well, if you’re going to do an interview, how do you open that interview? What’s your headline to go out and grab people? What’s your opening statement? What’s the title of this thing? What’s the information that it’s going to cover? That’s your actual introduction if you’re writing an article. What’s the opening paragraph? What’s the first information? This is like writing a sales letter. You’ve got to reach out to people. You’ve got to have a headline that grabs them, grabs their attention, and pulls them in. Maybe it’s the beginning of a story where you dive right into the action of the story, right into the middle of the conflict. This is your actual introduction. That’s the first thing.
Your first 1 or 2 paragraphs would be the thing that you would say or the actual material that you would present in order to begin this article, this interview, this blog post, this seminar, this whatever it is. That’s your actual introduction. This should be like 1 to 2 paragraphs.
All right, so what’s the second thing? The second thing that you need to put in there is to answer the question, “Why should I care?” What you’re wanting to answer, you’ve got this publisher, you’ve got this executive producer, you’ve got this expert blogger, you’ve got this person who’s controlling the strings of what information gets put out with this media outlet. What you need to do is answer the question for them, why should they care? Why should they give a rip about what it is you’re doing or what you’re producing or how it is you’re doing this.
The best way to answer this is to answer this with on an audience-centric approach. In other words, they should care because their readership, their listeners, their viewers, should really, really care about the information that you’re writing about. They should have substantial interest. This means you’re going to have to do a little bit of homework. You’re going to have to find out. Who is reading their stuff? Who is watching their program?
Now you need to know this anyway because if you’re doing this to become an expert in a given field, it doesn’t make any sense to become an expert to a group of people that aren’t likely going to hire you or need your services. You need to find out what keeps these guys up at night and who they are anyway. If it doesn’t match your demographics, the group of people you’re trying to attract, then you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. The second paragraphs is, 1 or 2 paragraphs, I guess, about why they should care. What will this do for them? What’s in it for them? That’s the second paragraph.
The third paragraph is a really, really important one and that is the, “Why me?”, question. I guess if you do it from the reader’s perspective, “Why you?” Why should you hire me? Why am I the right person to write this article? Why am I the right person to do this interview? What are my credentials? What’s my background? What’s my history? What’s my insight? What are the results that I’ve produced over the years in this given field? What do I have to bring to the table? What’s my USP? You’ll notice this why-me question is going to be answered by that. If you’ve done your USP the way that I’ve outlined and the way that I talk about in one of the modules you have access to, if you do the USP, if you do that, you’ll be able to answer this why me very, very easily.
I’m writing about business technology because I’ve got a background and I used to own a technology company where we built custom websites and database applications. Then I went on to write for companies like Google and Sony and Verizon and Microsoft and all these major technology firms. Through that experience I crawled inside of all these companies and I figured out what was wrong with their communication and with their writing. I know how to solve this problem and that’s why I’m writing this article is to help you and your readers will care because it’s going to help them produce more sales, get more traction, have better content, have better social engagement, et cetera, et cetera; whatever the purpose is of your particular package.
First, we talk about the actual intro. What is this that you’re going to be sharing to their readership? Number two, why should they care? Number three, why should they hire you? Number four is the close. This close is very, very simple. You’ve got the introduction, you’ve got the reasons what you’re doing this for, why they should care. You’ve got the reasons why they should hire you and then you just want to make a basic close.
The close, again, 1 or 2 paragraphs and it includes things like, “I can get this done in 1 or 2 weeks. I estimate that this will be like a 1,400-word article or a 20-minute interview or I anticipate,” blah, blah, blah. “Now, sir, the ball is in your court. If you want your readership, your viewership, your watchers, your seminar attendees, if you really want them to have all these great benefits and to have access to this information and all my years of experience, then get in touch with me and we’ll begin on the project. You can see I’ve already got it started. I know the big ideas. I know the outlines and I’m ready to go for you and to deliver this information.”
That’s the basic outline. This whole thing right here should be preferably 1 page and probably no more than 2 pages. This, if you absolutely have to, this for sure is your best option, that 1-page option right there. All right. Does that make sense?
All of this is basically the structure of your query letter. The actual introduction, why the reader, the publisher, the event planner, whoever it is should care, why you should be the person to do it, and then give them a nice, solid close. Give them your contact information. Give them a call to action and lay it out for them. Tell them they’ve got to get on the stick and hire you or at least publish you or invite you to their event.
Now, as I’ve told you about this, I’ve been weaving in and out of here ways that you can use this, but let’s talk about the how-to here for just a moment and lay some fundamental things. The first thing that you do on the how-to is the first thing that you always do and that is you decide who your audience is. Who are you actually talking to? You decide who the audience is and what their needs are. Then you create a solution. That’s number two, a solution for that.
What you don’t want to do is to get these mixed up. You don’t want to create a solution and then go out there and find a need for it. That’s never, never, never a good idea. You want to actually find a need, something that’s pressing, something that’s urgent, a bleeding-neck sort of a need, if you will. Then you want to provide a nice, solid, sound solution that you can bundle up in a nice little 500- to 1,500-word article or 5- to 20-minute interview or a half hour stage presentation, whatever your solution ends up being for the audience that you’re going to.
First of all, you decide who your audience is and what their needs are. Of course, this is dictated by the niche you’re in. I started out this with an example of being a writer in the technology field, maybe focusing on software. That would be your audience. Geeks, managers, marketing directors, for software-development companies and for publishers. This would be your audience.
What are their needs? Well, you’d sit down and calculate that. You might be in the medical device field. You might be in the financial newsletter publishing field. You might be in the health and fitness field. You just decide who your audience is and then you come up with other needs. Again, if you’ve put together your information packet, if you’ve gone through and decided who these people are and what you’re talking to them about, this is easy. Same thing with your solution. This is a very, very simple thing.
The third thing that you do now is you need to find, this is a silly phrase, but it’s the phrase that’s in my head and that is, “where the buffalo roam”. Where do the buffalo roam? In other words, you know who your audience is, but what magazines are they reading? What blogs are they tuning into? What speeches are they listening to? Do they go to TEDx conferences? What are the seminars they’re going to? What are the conferences they’re attending? What publishers online are they tuning into? Where are these guys tuning into? What is their attention being drawn toward and you might need to call a few of these guys or send them an email and do a little bit of a survey. Find out the kinds of things that they’re reading and what’s popular in the industry. You’re going to have to do some research here to find out where your target audience roams in order to make this effective.
Of course, finally, once you know where they’re at, then you need to come up with a game plan to give them consistent information. This is what I call, well, you’re going to start off with a big idea and then you’re going to number 5, what I call thin slice.
If we’re talking about the technology world, well, there are a number of different things that happen inside the technology world. One of them is that the vendors talk to their resellers. If you write a piece of software or you’ve got a program, then you want to get that out to your vendors and your affiliates that are going to spread that far and wide. Well, you have to teach these guys how to market this stuff. You’re going to give them marketing materials, educational materials. You’re going to give them white papers and data sheets and spec information. You’re going to make new announcements. You might have new logos or brands. You might have online assets like banner ads. All those kinds of things that you would put together if you were the marketing department inside of a technology firm that’s got a piece of software that they’re selling through what’s called a value-added re-seller or a re-sell chain.
Well, okay, let’s just look at one of these things. Let’s look at how would an end affiliate talk about this. They might have some kind of a landing page. They might have a white paper. You can take those topics. Let’s just use white paper as an example. The white paper would be a big idea. The big idea for this would be white paper is our way to soft sell to get people in, to get a consultation, and then to sell them on enterprise-sized type software solutions.
I could take that little topic about white papers and I could thin slice it. In other words, a white paper is made up of a number of different elements and it has information before and after. How do you close? How do you open? How do you give historical value? How do you weave the conversation in to show that white paper’s really supposed to be fairly non-biased, so how do you make it non-biased, but still make the value? All these little intricacies and nuances of a white paper in this arena is what you would take and break down into little tiny bits and this is what you’d call thin slicing.
Those thin slices, each one of those little segments now, becomes the topic for an actual introduction, a speech that you could give, a presentation, a brief interview. You could bundle these up in 3 or 4 of these and give some kind of a presentation or introduction. This is basically how you do it.
Then, of course, I guess the final how is spread the word. What I mean by that is if you’re going to do this and use a query letter, then you want to send out somewhere between 3 to 20 query letters in a given week to different outlets and different resources. If you get refused one time, don’t worry about it. If you really want to be published, you really want to be interviewed, you really want to go give a speech, just keep sending it back to them. Unless the editor tells you absolutely no, they’re always looking for new information. If you’ve thin-sliced your topic well enough, then you should have 50 to 100 different topics, articles, presentations, conversation starters. You should have all this information lined up pretty succinctly. Man, you could send out a whole bunch of query letters to different outlets and different resources.
Now here’s the thing. You want to do this until you’re picked up, but don’t propose to do the same interview, the same article for 2 different, competing outlets. Word gets around really fast and then they’ll cut you off. You want to give people an exclusive interview and you want to give people exclusive content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it. Again, if you’ve got thin-sliced information, you can always break it down and go to a deeper level, talk about different nuances of that. Talk about the thing that’s really, really effective. Talk about it in a way and package it all up together in a way that people might not have heard about or talked about before.
If you’ll consistently get your name out there and get published, you might get picked up to do a regular column, always, of course remember that you need a byline. What’s a byline? At the bottom of the article or inside the introduction somewhere or the webpage where your information’s being published, you need to have information about you and how they get back to you. The byline would include your name, your little short, tiny, miniature USP statement about what you do, and then contact information: how to get to your website, et cetera. If you’re really gutsy, then you can have in there a little call to action in your byline. “For more information on this and a full report on this topic, visit joshuaboswell.com/specialreportonwhitepapers.” Something along those lines.
That’s the query letter in a nutshell. There is a template that I have for you and a written description that I’ve got for you that you’ll be able to access on this same page. You’ll see that on the little template box here on the page and be able to access that resource. This is the query letter. My suggestion to you is that you use it, use it often, send it out there regularly, get published, get interviewed, go do speeches, all that kind of stuff. This will also work for books. Book publishers like query letters where you’re basically proposing a book. This can be used in lots and lots and lots of different ways.
I suggest that you get your name out there. Use it and become an expert. As I’ve said, you can write your way to fame and fortune because once you’re an expert, once you’re a recognized expert in a field, then people will come to you and ask you for your services instead of you always chasing them. When you can do that, then you’ve got lifestyle. Then you’ve got peace of mind, consistent income, and all the great things that go along with that. Okay? Use the query letter. I want to hear your story. Talk to you soon. Thanks.