Monday, July 7, 2008

Query Letters: A Day in the Life

Kelly wrote to ask me about the life of a query letter. While I don't know how every publication handles their query letters, I am happy to tell you about the life of a query letter when it comes to the ones the She Speaks! attendees submitted to ParentLife magazine.

Those letters went home with me. After I got caught up on some things, I went through the query letters to see what looked like a good fit for the magazine. The writers had lots of good ideas, and several even wrote to query the same subject! (When my friend Jon was the editor of HomeLife magazine, I remember him remarking that he figured great minds really did think alike--he would often get several query letters proposing the same subject at the same time!) I put the queries into three piles:

  1. Letters that would go straight to Jodi (the editor)
  2. Letters that I wanted to look at with Jodi
  3. Letters that were not a good fit

If you received an email from me yesterday, then you know that your query letter was one that did not fit the magazine. I am so sorry, ladies! I'm sorry that it had to be a form letter. There were so many submissions that I could not respond personally to everyone. I'm also sorry because I know how it feels to get a rejection letter. It stinks. I know it does. Let me list here a few things that would have caused me to put your letter immediately into the "doesn't fit" pile.
  • The topic has been done to death.
  • You were not qualified to write the article without expert input. (Read my posts on query letters!)
  • The article was not directed to our readership.
If you did not hear from me, it could mean:
  1. Jodi now has your letter, and she will contact you.
  2. You did not include your email address so I could contact you.
  3. My letter to you went to your spam folder.
Then I took the letters that I knew had potential, along with the ones I wasn't completely sure of, to a meeting with Jodi last week. (I notice that Jodi looks really young. Well, she's not old, like other people in that picture. And she is expecting her first baby, so she has that "glow!") The ones that Jodi liked, she kept. They will go into a huge yellow basket--the very yellow basket that is pictured at the top of this post! Isn't that exciting? :) And before Jodi goes to a planning meeting with the ParentLife team, she goes through that basket and grabs the queries she wants to pitch to the team for that month. If Jodi kept your query letter, you may hear from her next week, next month, or even next year. That's the way it works!

I hope you have enjoyed this series on query letters! If you have questions, please feel free to ask. I hope this has helped!

If you got a rejection letter, I encourage you to keep writing and, please, keep reading! Read the publications to which you are submitting your queries! You can write a better query letter when you are familiar with the magazine you are querying! (duh!) If you would like to browse a copy of ParentLife, just go to the front page of my website and scroll down to the ParentLife icon. It will take you straight to a PDF of our March 2008 issue!


Chatty Kelly said...

Thanks for the post! It is the yellow bucket part that gets me..."one week, one month of one year." As MOMSense magazine told me "we'd like to hold your article for possible publication in the next two years."

Have I mentioned I'm not the most patient person in the world?

Thanks for the great series!!

Chatty Kelly said...

Question of the Day - - when querying a magazine, should you include your blog information as part of your writing experience?

Also, excuse the typo in my last post "OR one year", not of. Rats.

Rebecca Ingram Powell said...

That's a great question. I think there are pros and cons to listing a blog as part of your writing experience.

I know several authors who maintain a blog in order to show potential publishers that their writing is appreciated and that it has a following. It also shows that a writer is able to build "relationships" with the public. When it comes to writing for magazines, however, I think whether or not you mention your blog depends on what kind of blog you have. Do you have a blog where your posts are written in a professional style, or are your posts riddled with "webspeak" and Internet lingo? Is your blog a place where you post your grocery list or your problems with your extended family members? Or is your blog a place where you hope to showcase the best you've got?

A writer should take into account what a prospective editor is going to see if she mentions that she has a blog!

But if she does mention it...
1)Include the URL!
2)If you have an impressive audience, be sure that you cite your "pageviews" and not your "hits." These are two different things! The number of pageviews represents the actual number of folks who are visiting a cite.

Thanks, Kelly!

Truth4thejourney said...

Thank you so much for all of this valuable information! Sending in an article at the conference was really just like playing the lotto. For me, I'm new at this and I have some "growing up" to do. That's where precious people like you come in! Thank you for sowing into my life, and others.

Lord willing, I'll be back when I'm older and more prepared for the article that matches the needs of Parent Life. :)

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