Don’t Kid Yourself: Queries Still Count

blog-query-letter

There’s still something to be said for doing things the old-fashioned way, like baking your own cookies and pulling yourself up by old, dilapidated bootstraps. Reading books and magazines that still have pages made from paper–this counts too.

Don’t get me wrong, I am the first to admit that I have an unhealthy addiction to the Kindle Reading App. It fits in nicely with my have-to-read-it-RIGHT-NOW mentality. But sometimes I wax nostalgic for glossy-covered periodicals and crisply bound biographies of my favorite writers, actors, pioneer women, and crocodile hunters.

New book smell–there’s nothing like it anywhere on Earth. It takes me right back to the fourth grade and Scholastic Book Fair week–Johnny Lee Shepherd be damned. Even a good bully couldn’t dull the excitement that was book fair week. Back then I wanted to be a marine biologist (I was that kid), but life, with its infinite sense of good humor and irony, made me a writer instead. So now I read about sharks while writing about small business. Surprisingly, the two intertwine occasionally.

As a freelance writer and professional blogger, I’ve covered a wealth of topics for a variety of online sites, but until recently, I never made it into print.

Then one day, on a whim, I wrote an old-fashioned query to a print magazine and opened up a whole new niche for myself.

It was just a little email I composed off the cuff, but I included links to my online portfolio and to my Google+ profile, and these are what propelled me into the world of local, small-town journalism. It meant new work, new clients, and developing a whole new set of writing and interviewing skills.

So if, as a composer of digital content in the 21st Century, you’ve forgotten the joy of seeing your work in actual print inside a real magazine, now is the time to remember.

Don’t kid yourself; queries still count. That is, well-written queries still count. There are still rules to follow:

  • Address your query to the editor by name. His name is listed on the editorial page of the magazine. If you can’t find this information, you’re not trying hard enough.
  • Get right to the point. Busy editors don’t have time to read through a lengthy email to get the gist of what you’re trying to say, and their readers won’t either. The query is the place to let your succinct writing skills shine.
  • Pose a solid, timely story idea. And keep in mind that most print periodicals buy content at least two months in advance. So if you’re pitching an article in June, make it applicable for a fall publication date.
  • Include important links: your online portfolio, your online profiles–even a writing sample, if that’s all you have. You have one shot to show this person what you’re capable of doing. Make it shine.

Learning new skills and stretching your writing abilities to cover new, previously uncharted territory is not only recommended, it’s fun too. It will increase your paycheck, your notoriety and the opinion you have of yourself and your capabilities.

So brush off those bootstraps and get pulling.

Anne G is an avid Internet stalker of fine writings and interesting people. She enjoys big words, grand ideas and lots of punctuation.


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