Monday, February 8, 2010

What Editors Really Want (In A Query Letter) by Usha Krishnan Sliva

What Editors Really Want (In A Query Letter)
from Usha Krishnan Sliva

There are a lot of reasons why a query letter may be rejected, the number one being the topic you've selected has already been published. Editors want great unpublished ideas, which translate into excellent well-written stories. Most rejection letters should not be taken personally, but if you find you're not getting anywhere despite some lightbulb moments, remember, editors hate the following:

1. Typos and errors: Check and double check to see there are no spelling or typing errors. Print out your letter and read it, or better yet get someone else to go through it before you send it out.

2. Poor formatting: Editors go through hundreds of documents on a weekly basis. Receiving one that's poorly typed up is sure to get binned. Ensure you select a standard font size (Ariel or Times Roman, point 12 usually works well) and single space the text. Try to keep it to one page- most editors won't have the time or inclination to read beyond that.

3. Long, windy sentences: Remember KISS? It's an acronym for Keep It Short & Simple. Make your point, give them clear instructions as to who you are and what you can do for them, and conclude your letter.

4. A condescending (or patronizing) attitude: Starting out with testimonials or nuggets of wisdom is never a good idea. Write in a clear and straightforward language.

5. A poorly addressed letter: Begin with a clear salutation addressed to the person who's going to be reading your letter. You can find out who it is by visiting the publication's website, looking at a current masthead, or emailing/calling their office.

6. An offer you can't back up: Don't get carried away and make claims before you can actually do research to back them up. If you are offering to interview someone, get updated statistics, or send in photographs to accompany your story, make sure you'll be able to deliver on your promises.

Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, sign up for her ezine on Getting It Write!