Several times a week, writers send us query letters, hoping to get published in (and paid by!) WritersWeekly.com. Today, I want to share with you 11 common mistakes writers make when approaching us (and other publications).
1. “Please assign an article to me.” or “What do you want me to write about?”
Some writers, after being rejected two or more times, will give up and, in exasperation, ask the editor to assign an article to them, or ask them point-blank what they should write about. If a writer needs to know what the editor needs, they should review the writer’s guidelines for that publication. If the writer can’t come up with a creative query letter that fits the publication’s vision, it’s doubtful the editor will trust the writer to satisfy the publication’s needs with an assigned article.
2. “Can I write a regular column (or a series) for you?” or “I want to write (what the guidelines specifically state we don’t publish) for you.”
While our guidelines specifically state we don’t buy columns or series of articles, we still receive numerous requests from writers asking us if they can be a regular columnist or if we’d like to buy a series from them.
3. Incorrect English
I have hired numerous foreign writers over the years but, if their query letters contains examples of incorrect English usage, I can’t trust them to write an article with correct usage for our readers.
4. Submitting ideas that have been used time and again in the industry
The most common rejection notice I must send to writers is, “I’m sorry but that topic is already heavily covered in the industry.” When a writer submits an old idea like this, it tells me they are either very new to the craft, they don’t read enough about the craft, and/or that they haven’t researched our publication.
5. “I can do a better job than you…”
Nothing sours an editor faster than a writer who claims to know the editor’s readership better than the editor him/herself. It’s very offensive for any professional to have an outsider (who is trying to sell their services) tell that editor they know the audience better than the person who runs the publication itself.
6. Arguing after rejection
I can’t tell you how many times a writer has argued with me after I’ve rejected their query, saying I’m “wrong” in my decision, or saying they know better than me what my readers need, or even how their article is so much better than others we’ve published in the past on the exact same subject. When writers have this holier-than-thou attitude, their chances of selling a future article to that editor are nil to none.
7. “I require payment by bank transfer” or “I do not accept checks” or “I live overseas so you need to mail me cash”
Collecting/keeping bank accounts puts a business at risk of being hacked and most companies do not do that, especially small publishers. Different publishers have different methods of paying writers. If a writer demands unreasonable payment terms up front, it’s doubtful they will get the assignment. If the writer demands odd payment terms later, the publisher has the right to refuse, and to pay the writer the way they pay all other writers. Of course, this type of surprise development in the relationship will also make an editor hesitate to work with that writer in the future.
8. “I know you don’t publish (insert any type of content here) but I know you will want to publish my (insert same type of content here)”
If, in a publication’s guidelines, they specifically state they don’t publish a type of article, column, photo, etc., pitching one of those to them pretty much guarantees not only a rejection letter, but also no assignments in the future.
9. “Dear Sirs”, “Dear Editor”, “To Whom It May Concern”
If you’re asking a publication to hire you, the least you can do is look up the editor’s name on their website. This type of lazy, generic greeting tells the editor your query is a mass-mailing (even if it’s not, they assume it is), and most of these types of queries get deleted with no response.
10. “My name is (John Doe) and I want to write for you. I’m a very good writer. What do you want me to write about?”
I receive about a dozen of these types of emails every week. It’s very discouraging how many wanna-be writers have no idea how to approach a publication.
11. “I have been published by (insert big-name magazine here) so I know you’ll buy my piece.”
Editors are extremely turned off by prima-donnas. It’s fine to include the name of the publication in your bio but assuming you’ll get published in one publication just because you got published in another is arrogant, and a very irritating for editors.
Query Letters are like a job interview on paper. You would never walk into an interview and say anything of the following statements:
“Please hire me. What job do you want me to do?”
“I know you don’t need a (insert any job title here) but that’s all I’m willing to do for you…but hire me anyway.”
“I know you already hired someone to paint your office. Will you now hire me to do it now, too?”
“I know you don’t hire (insert any profession here) but that’s all I know. Please give me a job.”
“I used to work for the biggest company in town so I know you’ll want to hire me, too.”
“Hello, To Whom It May Concern. I’m here for my interview.”
Just like the Email Golden Rule, don’t write anything that you wouldn’t say to an editor’s face.
If you would like to write for us, you can see the WritersWeekly.com Writer’s Guidelines here: http://writersweekly.com/misc/guidelines.php
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I’ve ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re selective and won’t publish any manuscript just because it’s accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors’ books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know.”
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