Sending out a query letter to editors can be a harrowing experience. You’ve worked hard on the article (or the article idea), and you know the query letter can mean the difference between publication or the slush pile. Start with the basics by reading Write A Query Letter That Sells!
A good query letter can mean your article gets published – and you get paid! A bad query letter can mean your article will be returned in your Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE), with nothing more than “Sorry, not for us” scribbled across the front of it.
So before you send your letter out to editors, check it for these common mistakes:
Statements from your mother (or brother or best friend).
Mistake: “All of my friends and family have read this article, and they think it’s simply superb.”
It’s a mistake because: The editor doesn’t care what your mom or spouse thinks about your article. The editor cares about his/her readers. (And the editor also knows that your loved ones may just prefer to praise your article rather than hurting your feelings.)
A description of your effort
Mistake: “I spent weeks researching and writing this article, and even missed a few appointments because it took so much work.”
It’s a mistake because: The editor doesn’t care how much time it took you to write the article. For all he/she knows, you’re an extremely slow writer. Sure, you want to get a few kudos for your effort. But wait until the editor is a regular client before you start telling him/her about all the time and energy you’re investing.
Your feelings about publication
Mistake: “I have always wanted to be published in your magazine, and it would be very exciting for me to see this article in print.”
It’s a mistake because: Again, the editor doesn’t really care about you. Harsh, but true. Your emotions and feelings about publication are irrelevant. All the editor cares about is finding good articles that will appeal to his/her readers.
Mistake: “Minimum payment for this article would be $400.”
It’s a mistake because: Just as you wouldn’t mention salary at a job interview (unless the interviewer broaches the subject), you shouldn’t mention payment in your query letter. It conveys a presumption that you expect the article to be accepted for publication. And your minimum payment might be way off the mark. It’s possible you might even ask for too little, and then you’ve lost out on some extra money!
Mistake: “This article has been rejected by three other publications, but I know it’s perfect for your magazine.”
It’s a mistake because: If you’ve already been rejected three times, the editor will immediately assume that something is wrong with the article. And no one wants someone else’s rejections!
Remember: Your query letter should be professional and polished. Treat it as business correspondence, and imagine it to be a job interview. Appear to be an experienced, expert freelance writer, and editors will snatch up your articles for publication!