The Five Don'ts of the E-Mail Query
The Five Don’ts of the E-Mail Query
As writers, we all want to make a connection with the editor. We dream that he or she will simply fall in love with our every written word and that we will receive well deserved praise and the editor would be calling asking us for more material. We now live in the world of the Internet, e-mail, texting, smart phones, and hope for a quicker response than to the old fashion query with a SASE. But that is not how it usually goes. Being a former editor of a magazine, as well as a freelance writer (and still receiving rejections now and then), I'd like to share with you five things not to include in an e-mail to an editor. 1) Attachments - Do not send an attachment of your manuscript (or anything else) in your initial e-mail to an editor. The first e-mail is only to make contact, a simple short query about what you purpose to write or have written. Also, don't enclose your manuscript and/or any images that might go with your article in the body of the e-mail. Going from one server to another often changes the format of the text. The sentences get jumbled and the paragraphs run together. Wait for the editor to respond to your query, then send your manuscript following their guidelines. If the editor says send it snail-mail, then do that. Don't e-mail an attachment unless invited to do so. In your e-mail, be sure to include your name, address, and phone number. Believe it or not, many people leave this information out. 2) Don't use texting abbreviations – You’d be surprised how many e-mails I received that instead of ‘How are you?’ it reads, ‘how r u?’ That might be fine for doing some quick texting to a friend, but not when you’re trying to get an editor’s attention. Right off the bat you have the editor wondering if you can spell. Be clear, precise, and spell out all words. Use spell check, most servers have that tool. Reread your e-mail a few times before hitting the send button. Maybe have a friend or family member read your query before e-mailing it to an editor. A second set of eyes can’t hurt. Also, try to keep your e-mail brief and to the point. No need to share with the editor that your father was a bull fighter or that your mother met Elvis, unless that somehow pertains to your article.
3) Don’t send an e-mail to 100 editors – While it might save you an incredible amount of time to send one e-mail to a list of editors, having to scroll through countless addresses to get to your query won’t work. Your e-mail will look like spam and likely get deleted before even being read. Send your e-mail to the editor personally, visit their website, use Writer’s Market, or call the receptionist for the name and spelling of the editor. Carbon copy (CC) the assistant editor if you wish. With the editor knowing that you’ve sent this query to numerous publications, chances are they will pass it up without reading it. Remember, the editor gets numerous e-mails on a daily basis -- interoffice, spam, personal, -- and they know how to use the delete button.
4) Don't call the editor after sending an e-mail - Don't waste your time and the editor's time calling him or her to say “You got mail,” right after you hit the send button. Most editors check their e-mail on a frequent basis. With today’s technology, editor's check their e-mail at the airport, on the road, at home, basically everywhere. Also, keep in mind that editors (as busy as they are) do have lives. They take vacations, attend family gatherings, take care of their children, and take the dog to the vet appointment. For example, I always tried to respond within a week to e-mail queries. I will admit that sometimes one or two might get by where I did not reply. Sending a simple reminder e-mail in about three to four weeks, with “checking the status of” in the memo line is sufficient. Keep in mind that bimonthly and quarterly publications are laid out well in advance, so do not e-mail the editor every two weeks checking to see where your article is in the process.
5) Don’t send vague e-mails – Occasionally I received e-mails that said nothing more than “for your consideration” or “please read and consider for publication.” Remember, an e-mail query is still a query. You need to make your request very specific and just as you would with an old fashion snail-mail query, you want correct spelling. Be sure to include your address and phone number.
So prepare your query, read it over carefully, and then hit the send button. Adhere to the “Five Don’ts” and be patient and diligent, and you will get a favorable response.
Suggested reading on writing a query letter includes: The Writer’s Digest Guide To Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas; Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals by Moira Anderson Allen; How to Write a Great Query Letter by Noah Lukeman; and How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool.
An internet search for websites and books on writing queries would also be helpful.
(This was previously published in Writer’s Journal May/June 2011 issue.)