Today, I’m opening up a new session of 30 Days, 30 Queries, an e-course designed to help you send 30 queries in a matter of 30 days and win top-paying assignments. Students have sold work to publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire (US), National Geographic Traveler, Discover, Afar, GlobalPost, Vice.com, xoJane, and CNN Travel.
What have they been learning? Here are my 30 top tips from my own 30 days of querying.
1. Don’t waste the subject line. “Query: Catchy Article Title” is the best way to do it.
2. If you’re unsure of whether the editor is a man or a woman, address your query to “Dear [FirstName Lastname]”. Else Mr. or Ms. Is fine.
3. The idea is the most important part of a query letter. A bad idea, no matter how brilliant the writing, just won’t sell.
4. The first sentence of your pitch or query letter is crucial. Take the time to make it sing.
5. Humor is good. Humor makes you stand out and gets their attention immediately, especially for service pieces. Make ‘em laugh.
6. For finding names of editors at publications to pitch, run a search on Twitter or LinkedIn.
7. When you begin to lose confidence, give yourself some “easy wins,” that is, editors you know will buy from you.
8. For anyone who says quality is more important than quantity, well, DUH. You think?
9. To write successful queries, read successful queries. Here are 21 of mine.
10. Find stories that are under-reported and that a publication’s own writers may not have access to.
11. Don’t save or hang on to your best ideas. Send them out today.
12. An editor is not your boss. Think of her as a client or colleague. She just does a different job.
13. Don’t e-mail editors trying to convince them why they’re wrong to reject your ideas.
14. Simultaneous submissions are fine if you don’t have relationships with editors.
15. Follow up on queries after a week or two. If you still don’t hear back, send your idea elsewhere.
16.Match your story ideas to current events. Timely ideas will always sell quicker than evergreen ones.
17. It’s the age of e-mails and short attention spans. Don’t write 1,000-word letters. Get to the point.
18. It’s not about getting assignments, it’s about building relationships.
19. Is there an issue, a topic, a concept that you’re passionate about? Talk to a friend about it. Record and transcribe the conversation. That’s the beginning of a query.
20. The more obscure crap you read, the more likely you are to come across story ideas no one else has thought of or knows about.
21. They haven’t rejected YOU as a person. They just didn’t like the idea or execution. Find a new idea, practice your execution. Get better and try again.
22. For every rejected query, do two things: 1. Send out the idea someplace else. 2. Send the rejecting editor another fantastic story idea.
23. Hitting the “New Mail” button repeatedly isn’t going to make that acceptance come any faster. Just saying.
24. Why should an editor hire you over that freelancer with more experience? It’s a difficult question, but you need an answer.
25. Unless you know an editor, it’s a good idea to keep it to one idea per query.
26. The correct response to a rejection is “Thank you. I appreciate the time you took to consider my work.” Don’t argue.
27. Don’t be quick to declare a specialty. Try writing different things. Find what you like. Find what you’re good at.
28. Show some personality in your writing. If you like using the word “fuck,” by all means, use it.
29. Lion, not sheep. You’re a freelancer. You’re independent. You work for yourself. Stop waiting for permission and find ways to get your work out there.
30. The world does not owe you anything. It is on you to write awesome things that people will love. So go, be awesome.
Your turn. What’s the best query-writing advice you’ve ever received? Share below.
And if you’d like to learn more about querying efficiently and effectively, check out my 30 Days, 30 Queries e-course, which has now been taken by 200+ students.