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Writing a query is one thing, but it definitely isn’t the only thing. You also have to format it well and know where it is going.
Who Gets It?
One thing I had a lot of questions about when I started freelancing was who to send my query to once it was complete. Most people directed me to Writer’s Market to find the proper e-mail addy, and this is a good starting point—but I’m here to tell you, editors change magazines very frequently. Especially when it comes to print publications.
Bottom line? Do your own homework on this one.
You can start with Writer’s Market, but be sure to follow up on any contact information you get from there. Other sources for finding the right person to send a query to include:
- The publication itself. Look at the masthead and see if you can find the editor’s name that you need.
- The website. Sometimes print publications will post their guidelines on the web, along with an e-mail contact.
- Other writers. If you know someone who was recently published in a magazine you are going to query, see if they will share the e-mail for the editor they worked with.
- The publication’s staff. In my opinion, this is the best way to go. Pick up the phone and call the publication. Ask for the editorial department and talk to the person that answers the phone. They’ll give you the appropriate editor—or if you are really lucky, the editor will answer the phone and you can pitch your idea right then and there. (An important piece of advice, however…don’t call and try to pitch your idea to an editor over the phone. If they answer the phone and ask—that’s one thing. Calling to try and sell your article is a big, huge, gigantic “no-no”.)
The Subject Line
Once you get the contact e-mail, craft a nice pitch to send and be sure to choose an appropriate subject line or you’ll wind up in the spam folder. I write something like:
Query: How to Photograph Pets
Query Idea for Real Simple Magazine
Other Important Stuff
- Keep your salutation formal (Dear Mr. Smith) and if you don’t know if the person is a man or a woman by their name, just use the full name (Dear Pat Jacobson).
- Break up the query into readable sections so it isn’t a massive block of text. Make things easy on the reader, and remember, they have a delete key.
- Include all of your contact information in the signature block. Full name, address, phone number and e-mail. If you have a website, add that too. You never know how an editor would like to get back to you, and you want it to be convenient for them.
- Do not, under any circumstances, send an attachment to an editor that has not requested one. Just don’t do it.
- Send from a real e-mail addy. Pass on hotmail accounts. Again, you don’t want to look like spam.
These are some of the things I wish that someone would have told me when I first started out. Over time, you begin to get the big picture—but in the beginning, all of these details are big question marks. Hopefully I have helped fill in a few blanks for you. As always, feel free to share if you have something to add that I haven’t covered here. After all, we’re all in this together…right?