According to the editors I interviewed, freelancers are irritating editors with lukewarm queries. Queries that sour an editor’s opinion of a writer can kill potential sales.
Number One Gripe: Many editors echoed Francesca Kelly of Tales from a Small Planet (www.talesmag.com), when she said, “Know my publication and read the writers’ guidelines.” Poorly targeted queries expose a writer’s arrogance or ignorance.
“Don’t send me queries on subjects I don’t publish,” advised another editor. “It’s obvious those authors haven’t read our newsletter nor our writer’s guidelines.”
An editor for a magazine targeted to home-based business owners said that potential contributors can gain an understanding of the type and style of articles a magazine publishes by reading back issues or viewing archived articles at the magazine’s website.
She went on to say, “Writers who submit queries on topics such as ‘Combating Office Politics’ and ‘Is Your Boss A Jerk?’ (pretty funny when you consider our readers are self-employed) prove they’re ignorant regarding the type of editorial submissions we’re looking for.”
A freelance editor based in the D.C. area said, “I appreciate a writer that is sensitive to the publication’s demographics – submits a story that targets readership. It makes everything a whole lot easier for everyone.”
Don’t Pester Editors: After assurance of anonymity, an editor of an international magazine told me, “We’re busy and we’ll get back to you when we can. We remember the names of people that have bothered us and it’s not in a good way.”
The editor of a healing and recovery magazine said that she is more likely to show interest and give time to writers and their work if they have shown respect for her. She added, “Don’t put me on your e-mail distribution list.”
After a vacation, she returned to combat a deluge of 800 e-mails. She begged writers to hold off sending e-mails.
An acquisitions editor at Tor Books (www.tor.com) said, “If an editor says she will get back to you in two months, give her a few more weeks. I don’t want to work with someone who’s always asking, ‘When are you going to do me?’ ”
Busy editors appreciate writers who resist the urge to ask about the status of submitted material until a reasonable period has passed, who send in their best work the first time (as opposed to submitting minor changes and revisions after the piece was accepted) and who don’t ask questions that are answered in submission guidelines.
E-mail Etiquette: “Don’t think that because you’re querying by e-mail, you don’t have to be polite.” The editor of Tales from a Small Planet (http://www.talesmag.com/writers-guidelines) bristles at messages like “Hi! Thought you might like to read this!” with a link to an essay on the writer’s website. This editor is “not inspired to use my limited time to follow up.”
Too many writers put “submission” or “article for you” in e-mail subject lines. When an editor wants to locate that e-mail later, but it’s buried in tons of other e-mails with identical subject lines, well…”It helps if the subject is what the article is really about,” the travel mag editor said. Travel writers who type “buying pottery in Belize,” or “Korean street food,” for example, in subject lines make e-mail editor-friendly.
Editors are reluctant to open attachments that come without an introduction in the body of the e-mail. “As our e-mail volume gets higher,” one editor warned, “I’ll just delete these.”
An editors’ perspective on e-mail etiquette: “I expect writers to present the same information they would in a written query letter: who they are, what they’ve written and why they think their work fits our publication.”
Stay tuned for Part 2.
Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”
When teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War
“Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.