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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Four Common Mistakes When Querying your Submissions

The following are notes I took from the Editor's Panel at the OWFI conference I attended from April 29th- May 2nd, regarding the mistakes most people make when they are querying to an editor of a magazine or newspaper.

  1. Tell me what you need and I'll do it: One of the common mistakes is to query an editor by inquiring what it is they want. Most publications have submission requirements. It's important to familiarize yourself with those requirements first, so you can create a story or article to pitch to them. They receive hundreds of queries a week. They don't want to waste time with a writer who doesn't have ideas of their own, or isn't willing to take the time to read the magazine's requirements. This statement is certain to get you into their slush pile.

  2. Not knowing your audience: Become familiar with the publication you are submitting to by buying one of their magazines or reading their content online. Sift through their table of contents and articles to get a general idea about who their target audience is. Submitting a piece about your favorite pet to Family Circle is probably not the best way to get your piece published, for example.

  3. Know who the editor of the publication is: Do your research. Google the editors online or subscribe to Writer's Market for a list of names. Querying "Dear Editor" is very informal and gives the impression that you are doing multiple submissions. They HATE that! One editor said that they like to feel important too, and if writers don't take the time to know who they are, why should they care to know who you are? Blunt and harsh, I know... but true. And by the way, if you are doing multiple submissions, please let them know it.

  4. Offering to write a column if you're a first timer: Please don't offer to write a column for them, unless you're a celebrity. This is one of those, "You have to earn your stripes type of thing." Columns are usually reserved for freelance writers and on staff writers who have been on board for a long period of time.

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