I turned on the television one day to find a famous journalist contemplating his retirement. “What will you do with your time now?” asked the interviewer. “Well,” he answered. “if you look in Writer’s Market, there are hundreds of trade magazines. I’m going to start at A and work my way through to Z.”
What a good idea, I thought. Opening the Market to Trade Journals, I circled those that spoke to my experience and interest and began writing queries. Now, creating a query is always a challenge. Does it say enough, too much? Does it capture my perky writing style or do the words just sit there on the page, moldering? Should it be one page or two?
Once I mailed the query, it took months to hear back. Impatient to receive some sort of word from a magazine I was especially interested in, I phoned the number given. Expecting to get the receptionist, I was taken aback when the editor answered. I told her that I had sent a query earlier. “What was it about?” she asked. “What is your background?” The third question stunned me. “Do you want an assignment for the next issue of the magazine?” Did I? Yes, I stammered and I’ve been on assignment for the publisher ever since, with 10 articles published in several of their seven magazines.
When I send off my next query, I will make a note to pick up the phone weeks later and call the editor. This time, I will be prepared with written notes in hand about my experience and angle of my article and who I was planning to interview. Editors are busy after all, and my query will undoubtedly get lost in the morass on their desk.
Query letters be (bleeped). It’s the telephone that works.
Lois Vidaver has worked as a feature writer for three daily newspapers during the past 30 years, winning awards from Associated Press and UPI. Her articles have been published in magazines such as Writer’s Journal, The Doll Reader, Careers for the disABLED, Woman Engineer, Hispanic Career World, Workforce Diversity and the anthology, The Voices of Alzheimer’s.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Some editors specifically request “no phone calls” in their guidelines. Writers should always check the guidelines before making that phone call.