Query Challenge – Dear Random Editor:

by Terreece M. Clarke

“Dear Editor: This is a fantastic query. It’s a hot topic and perfect for your biggest issue of the year. It’s well-researched and has a fantastic expert on board for an interview. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time to find out which editor I should send it to. Sure I could have sent a quick email or picked up the phone to be sure that the person on the masthead is still there and in the department, but I decided to go generic. Just any random editor at the publication. So now my query is stuck being passed around. Maybe it’ll find it’s way to the right spot. Maybe it’ll end up in the spam folder or under a pile of to-do’s on someone’s desk. By the time it reaches you though, you would have already assigned out the articles for that issue. Or when it does reach you, you’ll be annoyed by the “Dear Editor” and question my dedication to research. Sincerely, Freelance Writer”

One of the most important parts of a query is the editor’s name. Spell it wrong and you’re toast. Don’t bother to find it out and you’re lazy. Address it to the old editor or wrong section and you’re sloppy. It’s like the SATs, you get points just for getting the name correct.

Finding out which editor you should send a query to is as simple as picking up the phone or sending a short email. Checking the masthead is the first step, but think about when the magazine was sent to the publisher, a lot of things can change when you have such a long lead time. Suzy P. Editor or Dan Q. Writesalot may not be with the magazine may have been promoted or moved to a different area of the magazine.

It doesn’t have to be a long conversation or email. “I’m sending in a query on [subject] and I want to be sure I’m sending it to the correct person. I have [name & email addy or mailing add] is that correct? The person on the phone will be glad you checked and will give you the info you need. You may even get lucky enough to get the actual editor and they may ask for more info right then and there. Hello! Foot in the door!

Double check the spelling. Allyson, Allison, Alleson? If you can’t get their name right when asking for a job, an editor immediately wonders about what will be wrong with your article.

So what’s in a name? Everything. Get it right for query success!

How’s that query challenge coming? Anyone send out their queries? Any responses yet? Keep us in the loop!


Comments

  1. Hi Terreece,
    What you say makes sense, but I also don’t understand why some magazines go out of their way to make it difficult to find the section editors!!
    As for the Query Challenge – I have sent out one query (my very first – no response yet) and have the ideas and outlines for two more. Will send them out this week. I hope something works out but even if nothing does, this exercise has been very useful in getting me started with this process that is new to me. Thank you!!
    Another question – sometimes, it seems like the section I am interested in writing for is written by the same person in every issue….almost like a column…I’m not sure how you can identify if something is a regular column by the same writer or is open to freelance writers…sometimes it’s obvious when something is a regular column but other times it’s not – is it ok to still send a query for that section?

  2. I darkly suspect that some publications just don’t want queries, so they make it hard for anyone to figure out who’s in charge of what.

    And along those lines, a friend of mine recently had an idea for a home story, and she got online to research various home and housing magazines’ submission policies. Turns out, at least a couple of them flat out say that they almost never accept queries, so if you reallllllly want to submit an idea, you can, but don’t get your hopes up. Which is disappointing. But hey, at least they’re honest about it!

  3. Hey Rupa!

    Some sections are written in house either by the editor or assistant editor or other staff. You should check the section against the masthead and see if the section is written by someone on staff. My writing mentor hipped me to that trick :0)

  4. That’s a really good tip. Thanks for the heads up on that!

  5. Jennifer -

    That’s wild. I don’t know much about the home magazine arena, but I wonder if it’s geared toward having experts in the field exclusively write for the mag. Well-known design names so regular writers need not apply. Just a very wild guess :0) I could be completely wrong!

  6. I recently phoned a publication to find out the name of the editor. They just said to send it to [the name of the publication]. They weren’t interested in giving me a proper name. So do I simply begin the letter as “Dear Editor,”?

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