The Basics For Novice Writers: The DON'TS In Article Querying

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy Saturday, everyone! I really wanted to do a post for all of you novice writers out there working so hard to get your fabulous articles and stories noticed. It can be a very tough and frustrating road, can't it? I totally understand.

Not too long ago, I was right where you are frantically trying to get just one editor to take notice of my article and story ideas. Each rejection had me beating myself, wondering whether I was kidding myself of 'making it' as a writer. I kept every rejection letter--both paper and email versions. I know it seemed like I was just pouring salt on the wounds but, in the end, it proved to be one of the best things I've done.

You see, many editors will give you a reason your piece or idea was rejected--at least that's what I was lucky enough to have experienced. Alot of times, it isn't because your writing sucked but more because there wasn't room for the piece or they've covered the idea recently or it doesn't fit in to a particular theme they're going with. I always tucked away any tidbits of advice I was given so I could improve my querying skills (because it is a skill!). Another thing their advice gave me was the ability to look at my rejected offer with a magnify glass to see other possible reasons for it being turned down. And that's what we'll talk about today: The DON'Ts in article querying.

We talk about these periodically here on WOW but I felt it was a good time to bring it up again. We often put out all the 'Do's' to follow but you need to understand those Don'ts too. That way you can side-step all the things editors find most annoying and avoid having your idea turfed right into the rejection bin. These are just a few things I've learned (the hard way):

DON'T query about subject matter the publication doesn't cover. No matter how good your idea or your writing is that would be an instant rejection. Follow the publication's Writers' Guidelines to the letter.

DON'T call the editor by his or her first name unless you know him or her personally. It's a business relationship so unless they put that option out there, always address the person as "Miss", "Mrs." or "Mr." so-and-so. And, while we're on the subject, be sure that you address the person by the correct GENDER. There are many unisex names out there (eg: Jamie, Jordan, Jody, etc.) take the time to investigate whether you're addressing your letter to a male or female. Some editors don't have a great sense of humor about that sort of thing.

DON'T go longer than one page. You should be able to get a good hook in, a short description of your idea and your brief qualifications/contact information in one page. If not, you may not be completely certain about your idea.

DON'T send that letter off without checking it over completely. Check for spelling and grammatical errors, punctuation, and sentences that go on and on. And DON'T rely on spell check to catch everything. As you all know, some words can be spelled right but aren't the right word for what you want to say.

DON'T be over-casual in your email pitch. A business letter is the same no matter how it's sent so always be professional.

DON'T indicate you have no experience if you have none. For some places this doesn't matter but for others it does so no need to bring it up in your pitch. If they ask about it later, you can answer honestly but don't give that up from the get-go. You should be confident enough in your idea and your writing to sell it. Yes, there are some places who say they won't accept work from writers with no experience but if you have an excellent idea and present it strongly enough, you could get your chance.

On the other hand, DON'T, go on and on about your experience either. That can be annoying prattling on about every project you've ever done, especially if alot of it has nothing to do with what you're trying to pitch. Keep it down to a bear minimum or summarize your work as best as you can.

DON'T follow up on your pitch too soon. Most places will indicate in their guidelines how long they take to review and get back to you or if they even will get back to you. Some places state clearly that if you don't hear from them within a specific time frame, to assume your idea wasn't accepted. Editors don't have time to respond to every query or give each of us an answer to, "Why?". Just go ahead and pitch to the next editor on your list!

DON'T pitch more than one idea at a time. Give the editor a chance to read and consider one idea before suggesting another. But DON'T keep firing ideas at the same editor. This will only lead to you being blocked and you don't want to create a bad reputation for yourself before you even get your foot in the door! Unless the editor invites you to try again, don't. Or at least wait awhile before trying again.

And above all else, DON'T give up. Just because your idea doesn't work for one editor doesn't mean it won't for another. If I'd given up, I wouldn't be where I am today. Learn what you can from those rejection letters, absorb knowledge from those editors willing to share their pearls with you and thicken up that skin! The world of article writing is tough but there's enough room for all of us. Keep your dream alive!


Margo Dill said...

I think you wrote this post just for my class I am teaching. We are getting ready to talk all about queries. I am going to use you as part of my class material! :)


Chynna said...

Oh, YAY!! I'm so glad you'll be able to use some of the points here. Good luck with your class, Margo. You amaze me with all that you do. <3

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminders!

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