Question: What bothers you when reading submissions?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Recently, Evelyn Marentette, a WOW! Spring '07 flash fiction winner, interviewed Annette and I for Pam Casto's newsletter Flash Fiction Flash. She asked some great questions about our submission process, our contest, etc. Here are two from the interview freelancers would interested in.

(Photo credit: Flickr Mr. Wright)

Q: What do you consistently see that bothers you most when reading submissions?

A: Biggest irritation: when writers query without having read our publication. WOW! is very obviously a women's writing website; yet, we still receive submissions about beauty and fashion. Be aware of the types of features we publish. Don't submit personal essays when you see we publish how-to articles and author interviews. That also means checking the word count. WOW! articles are content rich and more like print magazines when it comes to length. The standard 500-600 word online article is about 1500 words too short for us.

Also, check the editor's desk section for whom to address in your query. We've actually received submissions addressed to "Dear Sir." Run spell check and grammar check. Read your email query aloud. Do whatever you need to do to make sure your query is clean-correct spelling, solid grammar, and proper punctuation. If a writer doesn't take the time and effort to make sure her query is immaculate, we know she'll be just as careless with her submission.

We often receive emails from writers who say they would like to write for WOW!, but have no idea what they have to offer. What is your expertise? Figure it out so you can bring something to the table. We are always looking for fresh voices, but you have to be able to provide content that has value to our readers.

Q: After a day spent delving into the slushpile, can you tell us what compels you to accept one piece of writing over another?

A: At WOW!, there really isn't a "slush pile." All queries and submissions are given equal attention and considered on their own merit. The query evaluation process includes questions that have to be answered. Is it a topic that would be of interest to our readers? Does the freelancer have the expertise to write the article she is proposing? Has she fully fleshed-out her idea? Has she listed sources, or prospective sources for quotes? Does she have a strong voice? Has she come up with a unique title? We may not use the title for the published article, but if it's memorable--like "How to Hog-tie an Agent,"--it keeps the query on our minds, rather than getting lost in the mix with all the queries titled: "How to Get an Agent."

Queries should include clips or some sort of writing sample; at the very least, a link to a blog post written like a how-to article. If you are serious about freelancing, you should have a blog that showcases your writing ability.

For submissions, show us that you know how to structure an article for the web: subheadings, short paragraphs, bullet lists, sidebars, a content-rich article with no excessive wordiness.

Don't send out anything less than your best work. If you expect to get paid, make sure what you write is worth the money.


In a nutshell, WOW! is a fun site, but we're very picky about our content. We know that writers rely on us for expert advice, so we only accept articles with true take-away value. Every article is gone over with a fine-toothed editing comb. Another tip: we use The Chicago Manual of Style for all of our articles. If you're querying us, please be familiar with the guide. It's the publishing bible.

Today is my day for going over past queries and subs in preparation for "pitch-fest" in the PG group tomorrow where I will be fielding queries and answering questions about content on the boards. It's my first time doing something like this and it should be fun! If you're a member of PG, be sure to stop by from 12 PM - 2 PM (Pacific time). :)

To view our submission guidelines, visit our Contact Page and scroll down to the subheading "Submissions." Currently, we are looking for articles to fit our upcoming themes: children's writing, and romance writing.

Now I want to know: are you a freelancer? How has the market been for you lately? Any tips you want to share?


Anonymous said...

lol, I'd be glad to tell you how the market are as soon as I catch a breath and get some pitches out! I took a copyediting job that takes up 15 of my 30 available work hours a week. Haven't pitched in weeks:}

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