The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals

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Release Date: 
September 27, 2010
Allworth Press
Reviewed by: 

Moira Allen’s name is well known to most writers. She was a pioneer in using the web to offer support and built a strong following, with her website and newsletter. As we explored the web’s resources, she was there, leading us toward success.

Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals is the second edition of Allen’s successful guide for writers, originally published ten years ago. Back then, many writers were lost at sea when it came to learning how to write query letters, find markets, write book proposals, and make a living doing what we love.

So much has changed in the publishing industry since that first edition. Email replaced snail mail, publications now list their submission guidelines online, and studying back issues no longer requires spending a Saturday in the stacks at your local public library.

In the book’s Introduction, Allen writes that the publishing world was a tough place for writers back in 2001, but it is tougher now. Indeed, the pace is faster, competition is greater, and the industry’s expectations for writers are pushed further and further.

So how can Allen handle cover it all? With eight books in one, that’s how. This new edition covers the basics of proposals and queries, syndicated columns, how to market your book, understanding self-publishing, and writing for business. The inclusion of social media and ebooks are, of course, the newest sections.

The best way for you to approach this bounty of advice may be to start with the basics in Chapter One, whether you’re new to writing or need motivation to accomplish your primary goals as a freelance writer or author. As Allen illustrates with personal experience, writers can move from one type of writing to another. Freelance assignments lead to clips that can get you noticed and build a following for a book. Conversely, having a book opens doors for you to pitch articles and get speaking gigs.

After you build a strategy for tackling the craft of writing, return to other chapters and sections when you are ready. Even experienced writers will be inspired, as each section seems to ignite divergent ideas as it delves deeper into its content, such as Allen’s advice on these topics: Competition, insider advice, the five components of queries, building credentials, and why letters of intent (LOI) are the best way to approach trade publications. The book includes guest essays by several other successful contributors.

The chapters on writing for newspapers, becoming a columnist, and self-syndicating your work are, collectively, equivalent to a weekend workshop of practical material. Packed with ideas, this book provides the steps required for getting a syndicatable column, including the submission package—all in great detail.

Allen is right on target in describing the pros and cons of self-publishing and print-on-demand. Allen emphasizes the depth of commitment an author must make with the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, when she says: “. . . A successful DIY publisher is one who understands that the key to this approach truly is doing it yourself. It means gong far beyond being just a writer, and taking on the tasks that would normally be handled by your publisher.” She then outlines the roles you’ll fill to manage your electronic and print self-publishing.

A big issue today is the scarcity of agents willing to take on unpublished authors. By learning what an agent offers and what is expected of you, you’re more likely to succeed when approaching a new agent. This chapter lets you step away from your writing and examine your book in terms of marketing and profit potential. And that, of course, is exactly what will generate an agent’s interest in your work.

Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals does a great job covering book manuscript preparation, the delicate dance of submission, and the perfect pitch. The sample documents and resources will encourage you to promote your work as an author, and to explore freelance writing as a way to expand your book’s visibility.

Allen is author of dozens of books and hundreds of freelance articles. She is the ideal person to guide you on your path to success in publishing.