Q. How’s the writing business going?
A. Fairly well, although I am writing more query letters than articles.
Q. What’s the count?
A. Over the last three months I’ve sent out at least 13 queries. From that, I’ve had one article published, one is awaiting publication, and there are green lights to write two more.
Q. Only 12 queries in three months?
A. I do other things beside write, although I prefer to write first.
Q. Still, it does not seem that productive.
A. A good query letter can take days to put together. You have to know your subject well enough to convince an editor that you can write about it. If you are writing about an electric guitar you do not need to know how to play (although that would really help) but you better know its parts, something about its history, and how people are using it today. You also need to know about the magazine you are writing for, since every query has to be tailored to every publication. The more complex the subject, the more you have to research. Just for a query letter. Having said all this, however, one has to know when to stop. Since the vast majority of proposals are rejected, one can’t put too much time into them. It’s a balancing act between being convincing and accepting the reality of rejection.
Q. Why do you think the majority of your queries are turned down?
A. I don’t know. I’m only notified when someone wants to go-ahead with a project. I don’t get rejection notices with reasons.
Q. What do you get?
A. I get nothing at all. Silence. No response.
Q. Then how do you know what you are doing wrong?
A. I don’t. If I am in fact doing anything wrong. Let’s say Via rejects a query. It’s possible Sunset may accept the same proposal. So where is the wrongdoing? Perhaps there isn’t space for the article I propose. Perhaps they think my writing doesn’t fit their magazine. Perhaps they’d like a writer they know. And, of course, perhaps the magazine thinks I am a poor writer. Who knows if you’re not given a reason? There is one thing that I struggle with, something that may keep me out of contention.
Q. And that is?
A. Enthusiasm. My queries are definitely more enthusiastic and over-the-top friendly than my normal writing. Proposals are meant get a reader’s attention quickly, not be sustainable for 2,000 words. But that tone may work against me.
Q. Do you follow on to find out what’s happened?
A. No, unless I have an article I really want to do. I’ve only followed up on one proposal in the last few months. I strongly prefer to pitch another article, rather than focusing on an old idea. It’s like a job interview: if they want you, they will call. Unlike a job interview, one’s persistence should not be on trial. I trust an editor will get in touch when I put a good idea in front of them.
Q. Does networking help?
A. It might but I haven’t pursued this. You can e-mail me if you think it helps. I can see the benefit of knowing various editors, such as having their specific e-mail addresses, but I don’t know how this would come about. I have a LinkedIn account but that is all. I will ponder this.
Q. Any tips?
A. I used to send out queries in the middle of the night, or on weekends, whenever I got them done. I am now thinking that is a bad idea. The best time might be during a workday, so that your e-mail pops up while they are at the office. Otherwise, your e-mail will be quite a way down in their inbox when they get back to work. Just a thought.