As I am no longer a callow youth, and a Brit, I have to admit to viewing the title of this book with not a little cynicism. A query letter that could net the writer $2,000? Oh come on! I mention these feelings because I suspect that many people will have a similar reaction. However, I have to tell you that having read the book I think its title under-promises and over-delivers.
Before explaining why, perhaps it would be useful to make one thing crystal clear. Even seasoned freelancers like myself receive many rejections from editors. It comes with the territory. Therefore anything that can help you raise your game is to be welcomed. OK, let’s get to the book.
It has several things going for it. First, you cannot, for copyright reasons, simply copy and paste the query letters featured, but then why on earth would you want to, given that every situation is different? Nevertheless, you can glean some great ideas about how to phrase a pitch, and what to put in it.
You will be helped in this process by reading the commentary about each one. In other words, this is not just a collation of query letters. That would be useful to some extent perhaps, but would leave the reader to do much of the work analysing why a query to an editor succeeded.
Next, there are some very useful articles from successful “pitchers”, which turns the book into a smaller, highly focused, version of guides like the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book (UK) and Writers’ Market (USA), as far as the articles are concerned.
One of the articles is by Angela Hoy, the President and CEO of the publisher, Booklocker and the newsletter Writers’ Weekly. The article discusses the differences between freelance working and being employed. This is important because, as she makes clear (and as I’ve come across myself), some organisations seem to want a full-time employee but without the inconvenience and expense of paying their taxes, pension fund, holiday pay and so on.
Another very useful section of the book lists websites on which freelance writing jobs are listed. There were several I hadn’t come across before.
Although the book’s title may suggest that you can write a query letter that will land you a $2000 assignment (which is no doubt possible), it’s more about writing query letters that will get your foot in the door of a publication. Once there, you can prove yourself and land further assignments as a direct result.
I tried one or two of the suggestions before I had heard of this book, and they worked for me. That is to say, you could probably work out some of these ideas for yourself, but this book will save you a lot of time — in my case it took me years to come up with the ideas!
There’s another thing the book does. Sending off a query letter takes effort, and guts. There is always the fear of either being rejected outright or, worse in a way, being kept hanging on for an answer which may never come. What this book does is inspire confidence: it is possible to land very lucrative freelance work. And if the contributors to this book can do so, then why not the rest of us?
I highly recommend this book, will be including it in the list of resources I’m compiling for the course I’m teaching soon: