Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Consumer Health Query Letters

One of my students recently asked me an interesting question: What makes consumer health queries different from other types of queries?

On the surface, queries sent to a consumer health publication should follow the same rules as any other query.

However, I think there are two special considerations for a consumer health query:

1. The query must reveal your knowledge of the consumer health writing market in general and of the queried publication in particular. This has to do with knowing what the "hot topics" are in the market and coming up with an original angle for your story. Editors receive hundreds of queries every week and your query will compete with other potential articles. If your story is about a rare disease and the next query in the stack is about a new treatment for diabetes, yours will probably be rejected (understanding that there is limited space for publication).

Editors want articles that sell magazines. In other markets, this would not be much of a problem. Think for example about a magazine on agriculture--an article about a rare plant disease would probably have good chances of being published because there is not so much competition and readers are less selective.

2. Your knowledge of the topic. Your knowledge of the health topic of the story (and to some extent your degree) is also important because health articles must be authoritative. In other markets, your knowledge of a topic can be addressed in the query with a couple of lines saying you have published on related publications or have written about the same topic before. In consumer health writing, however, you have the chance of emphasizing your medical/scientific education and professional experience. This can give the editor a good reason to pick your query over another.

To learn more about query letters in general read The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock; for an in-depth look at consumer health query letters see the Consumer Health Writing Home Study Course.

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