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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Query Critique #1: A Service/Wellness Pitch

Hi, readers, and welcome to the 2013 Query Critique! Here's the first one, with my comments in blue: 

Happiness can seem like a forgotten concept as our schedules pile up and we drown beneath endless tasks and to-do lists. Feeling overwhelmed can cause us to fall into a lousy mood. Getting out of that slump can sometimes be hard. What you need is a happiness fix. [I like the general idea of this pitch--and in fact have written about happiness on several occasions--but I think the lead could be more compelling/attention-getting. In my opinion, it's a little too general.]

In my article, “Be Happy Now. 5 Minute Fixes,” I’ll speak with experts and women-on-the-street who will share their happiness tactics. Go from blah to bliss with one of these spirit-boosting tips. [Again, feels a little general/unfocused to me. I do like the working title, though.]

For example:

Elizabeth Singer a licensed psychoanalyst says, “Change it up. Brains have three states. We pay attention and think. We feel our emotions, and we rest or daydream. When a blue mood seeps into your day, try changing it up. If you've been working, rest and daydream for a few minutes. If you've been a couch potato, grab a puzzle and solve it.” [I'm wondering where this quote came from. Did the writer interview her or is this from a book? I can't tell from the quote. And I don't think this quote is particularly strong--I'm not sure what the 'three states' that she refers to are from this quote. I think it could be reworked, or taken out of direct quotes to make the point stronger.] 

Rea Frey a lifestyle writer feels we should, “Replace ‘I have to’ with ‘I want to’. There are too many ‘I should do this’ and ‘I have to do that’ on a daily basis. What can you live without? What do you really want to do? Ask yourself: at the end of the day, what really matters? What do I want my life to be?” [This quote is fine, but is this really a five-minute fix? This sounds like it would take quite a bit longer than that. I'm also wondering why Frey is quoted. I'd cut this quote as she's not in the wellness/happiness field.]

Carol Frazey, M.S. suggested, “Start a fun, innocent practical joke. This could be something like consistently leaving a flower or some type of greenery on a friend/coworkers windshield, hiding a silly toy in their office, or placing a whoopy cushion on their chair. Sometimes thinking about how we can boost someone else's day actually boosts our own too!” [I like this quote best of the three, because it's specific and something that is a five-minute fix.]

These are just a few examples of what you’ll find in the article. [How long will the piece be? And why not just include the suggestions, not these long quotes?]

For over five years I served as a regular contributor at Listen Magazine and Western New York Family Magazine. [Is the writer still a regular contributor? I'm not sure from the way this is worded.] My work has appeared in various print and online magazines including, VerveGirl, Faith and Family, GeoParent, Families on the Go, Florida Family, and Georgia Family Magazine. [Good.]

With my experience I can provide an impeccable ability to work as a team player, tackle new and challenging projects and meet deadlines. [Hmmm...I'm not crazy about this sentence as it sounds like something I'd expect to see in a cover letter, not a query. I do like the part about meeting deadlines, though!] 

With my experience I can provide an impeccable ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines.  [I think this is a typo...and something to be avoided!] Happiness is only minutes away. [Huh? Not sure where this fits in.]  May I write this for you? [I do like that the writer asks for the assignment, but I'd like to know how long the piece will be, and what section of the publication she believes it would fit in.] 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm Regards,

Thanks to the writer who submitted this query. I'd say she has a great start, but the query could be much more compelling. What about citing a recent happiness survey, or a surprising fact about happiness--for example, that studies show that winning the lottery doesn't improve happiness past a few weeks? This would give the pitch a time peg and make it more specific. 

I'd also list some specific suggested five-minute happiness fixes instead of using the quotes she's included. I felt the query read a little too long and could have been more tightly focused to the publication's audience/readers to make it more salable. 

Readers, what do you think? Do you agree with my analysis? Feel free to comment here, and feel free to submit your own query for a critique very soon!]  


  1. Really solid comments.

    If tightened up, I think that this should be a successful query. Happiness-themed pieces are definitely on trend right now. And this article seems as though it will have suggestions that could improve the reader's happiness immediately.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Kelly! I love seeing the advice and comments. Your helpful hints will surely come in handy for this writer.