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Monday, July 19, 2010

Query Critique #2: Swiss Chard Pitch

Welcome back to Query Critique Week; here's the second query. Once again, my comments are in blue:

Dear Ms. Sweeney:

Even though I live in the middle of nowhere, I believe my garden should look pretty for anyone that happens to drive by. But, if I still lived in the city, I definitely would take extra pains to make it not only neat and tidy, but colorful. [This isn't enough of a lead--I can see an editor saying, "so what"? I think the hook is actually in the second paragraph.]

I planted Swiss Chard for the first time last sping because I saw it in my friend's garden and liked the pretty colors. I had no intentions of liking it. I was pleasantly surprised. [Here is more of a hook for the article--that the plants in your garden can be not just eye-pleasing, but delicious, too. I like the idea of plants being "double-duty," but I want to know more than the writer was "pleasantly surprised." How was she surprised? Was it delicious? Better than what she'd bought at the store? Did she put it in salads, or make soup from it, or serve it as a side dish, or what? If I'm the editor, I want more here--namely, why will my readers care about this story? Another important detail--is this a plant that's easy to grow or requires little space? If you're an apartment dweller, you might have limited space, so if Swiss chard can be grown in a small container, that would be a nice aspect to play up. And that's the last thing--I don't think chard should be capitalized.]

I would like to write "The Colors of Chard" for the readers of Urban Farm. Hovering around 1,000 words, this article will discuss different varieties of chard, the details of planting and growing chard in the urban setting, some nutritional information, and, of course, how to harvest and eat it. I could also include a sidebar of sources for purchasing chard seed. [Here we get into some more detail, but she can do better. First, she should suggest the section of the magazine the story belongs in, to demonstrate she knows the market. Second, I'd add some more detail here--how many varitites of chard are there? What does it taste like? How versatile is it? Still, I feel like the "hook" of this story--that gorgeous plants can also be delicious meals--needs to be brought out a bit. This query feels a bit like it was written off the top of her head, and more detail, research and a more compelling hook will help sell it.]

My articles have previously appeared in BackHome Magazine, Grit, and Home Education. [I'd like to see the writer play up her gardening experience here, and claim herself as a freelancer. "I"m a freelancer and long-time gardener, and believe my personal experience will help me bring a unique perspective to this piece. My work has been published in markets including BackHome Magazine, Grit, and Home Education." Remember, you need to sell yourself and your experience in the ISG paragraph.]

If you would be interested in reading "The Colors of Chard" on spec, you can reach me at this e-mail address. [Too weak--and don't offer to write on spec, or speculation. You want an assignment. How about, "I hope you'll find this piece appropriate for an upcoming issue of TK magazine; please let me know if you have any questions about this pitch." And I'd make the working title "The Colors (and Flavors) of Chard" to play up that hook again!]


Back to you, readers--what do you think? Do you agree with my suggestions? Do you have other ways to improve this query?

Want to get in on the game? Send me a query you'd like to see critiqued to kelly [at] and you may see your work posted (anonymously, of course). More to come!


  1. Thanks, Kelly. This is really helpful. I guess the query is not the place for brevity. :)

  2. Hi, Carol--not unless you've written for the editor before. Then I've found a query of just a few lines (often one paragraph) is sufficient. I love short queries, but you usually have to prove yourself with the longer ones first!