Many magazines now publish their submission guidelines on their websites, so check these out first to get an idea about the kind of articles they want. If you can’t find guidelines on the website, write to the editorial office with an SAE asking for writer’s cinema magazin. Most magazines will be happy to send you a copy.
The bottom line is, editors only print what their readers want to read. So if you have an idea that appeals to a magazine’s audience, it will also appeal to the editor. And the only way to find out what the readers want is to read the magazine yourself.
Step 3: A grand opening
Make your opening sentence work for you. Make it attention-grabbing and make it a masterpiece. Editors are busy people and you have about 30 seconds to get their attention. If you begin your query with a boring statement, she will simply scan through your letter and move on to the next one. Don’t give her any excuse to stop reading your letter. Present your idea as early in the letter as possible.
Your first sentence can be an intriguing question, an interesting fact, a quote from someone you interviewed, an anecdote, a statistic, a riddle or a joke appropriate to your idea.
Don’t ever begin your letter with:
‘Although I have never been published before …’
‘I’m new to writing but …’
‘My mother thinks I should submit this article idea …’
You get the drift. Comments like these scream amateurism. No editors want to work with amateurs.
Step 4: Get to the point quickly
Don’t over-stay your welcome by waffling on about inappropriate personal details. Editors are not interested in the fact that you struggle to find time to write as a mother-of-two, for example.
Explain to the editor why your article idea is unique and how it is of interest to her and her readers. Include a provisional opening paragraph if possible, but only if you think it will grab the editor’s attention and make her want to know what comes next. Say how you will get the information required to write the article; for example, by interviewing experts on the topic.
If you haven’t worked with the editor before, include brief information about yourself. If you have special qualifications to write about this particular article, make sure you let her know. For example, if you have a science degree and your article idea is about making science interesting to the general public, then say so.
Indicate how long your article will be. Make sure this is in line with the average length of similar articles in the magazine. Make it clear to the editor that the length can be varied to suit her needs.
Make your query a single A4 page. If you can’t condense your idea on one page, you need to work on it more to get it more focused.
Don’t include more than one idea in a query. The only exception is when you’re sending fillers. Even then it should be no more than 2 pages. Number your fillers clearly.
Step 5: Be professional
Professionalism is the key to success. The quality of your writing is of course important, but so is the image you project as a professional writer.
Be businesslike. You may be feeling despondent about having received five rejections in a week, but don’t spill your emotions. At this point, an editor is a potential client, not a personal friend, although she may become so once you have worked with her on a regular basis.
If you can afford it, get a professional-looking letterhead designed and printed at a printer. It need not be too expensive. If you own a laser printer, you can design a simple, elegant letterhead yourself on your computer. Make it minimal. Don’t try to use all the available fonts and colours in your word processor, and resist the temptation to include silly clip-arts in your letterhead. If you want to include graphics, get a logo designed professionally.
Include essential details such as your name, postal and email addresses, telephone and fax number.
Don’t expect the editor to pay for return postage. If you want to get a reply, you must include an SAE.
Editors want articles that are well-researched and error-free. If you query is full of mistakes, editors will doubt your ability to produce high-quality articles.
Don’t rely on spell-checkers solely. Read your query letters out loud; this makes it easier to spot spelling and grammatical errors. Get a friend or relative to proof-read your queries. Don’t send them out unless you know they’re error-free.
Step 6: Be focused
It is probably true that everything has been written about at least once. Your task is to find a new angle. Do you have something new to say about your topic? Or can you say something that’s already been said in a new way?
Don’t write to an editor suggesting you want to write an article about cooking or dyslexia. This is too generic. On the other hand, queries entitled ‘Quick Mouth-watering Recipes for Busy Mums’ or ’10 tell-tale signs of dyslexia in children’ are focused.