We left off last time on the subject of submitting to more than one
publication without giving each the courtesy of letting the other know. This does not include query letters. That is, if you have an idea you want to pitch to several publications, go for it. But keep in mind that while you might not get a 100% acceptance return, that even if you get two out of five, you need to make sure you are prepared to offer two different articles.
You're only going to strike out if you can't deliver when the time comes to do so. Simultaneous querying might sound like a good idea, and it most often is, but it is better to make sure you have enough material on the subject if you do happen to find yourself given the go-ahead by more than one editor.
As writers, we have to remain professional. When we compose print query letters and cover letters, we always seem to maintain that level of professionalism that makes us look good. We spell check, address the editor in a respectful manner, write in complete sentences, etc ... But when it comes to e-mail, writers seem to get lazy. We open with "HI" and use the editor's first name without knowing if that is welcomed. We're short because it's best to be but instead of being short and precise, we write short rambles with incomplete sentences. We use smilies and cutesy Internet handles and seem to forget that we are still trying to win the editor over.
What does an editor think when they get these kinds of letters?
"Unless I know the writer and have worked with them on several occasions, I don't want someone addressing me like I am their best friend," explains one editor. "Further, I can't read their minds so how am I supposed to know what they mean when they don't spell it out for me. E-mail queries leave a lot to be desired. It's the one writer whose e-mail really stands out with professionalism that gets the job with me."
Just because it's easy to dash off that e-mail, doesn't mean you should leave your professional cap on the hat rack. You want to grab the editor's attention? Pretend you'll be sending the e-mail by mail - and for goodness sakes, spell check. An editor will pass up your whole idea if there are numerous spelling mistakes in the query to begin with. They don't have time to try to figure out what you "meant" to say.
Finally, don't just read the publication's guidelines. Read the publication itself. Most magazines have samples on their web sites. Many offer free samples or those that cost less than if you bought it off the shelf. Guidelines do nothing for what reading samples can do for you. One writer I spoke with tells me how she read the guidelines on a site, queried the editor, got the go-ahead and wrote out some of her best work. Unfortunately, it was rejected because it was completely opposite of the style the magazine uses. She spent much too much time doing the rewrite when she could have just read the samples offered on site and *mentioned* in the guidelines themselves. She finally made the sale but had to do twice the work to get it. It takes a mere few minutes to do your homework with a publication.
Playing the game of freelance writer can seem like one with too many rules, and at times, it is, but if you really want to do it, these simple steps can help you reach success faster. While there may be no true formula to help you reach your individual success, following the advice listed here as well as that offered by many other successful writers, you may just find yourself on your way to winning this game. After all, all writers love to pass GO and