7 Tips on Tailoring Your Query to Increase Acceptance Rates By Tatiana Claudy

7 Tips on Tailoring Your Query to Increase Acceptance Rates By Tatiana Claudy

QUERY LETTERS THAT WORKED! Real Queries That Landed $2K+ Writing Assignments - SECOND EDITION“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out,” said Robert Collier, an American writer. For several years, I was studying other writers’ successful query letters, and perfecting my own pitches. What I learned helped me to get an assignment from a $1-per-word publication, Smart Mouth newsletter. Let me share what I discovered during this writing journey.

Find Tips from Editors

Study writers’ guidelines to learn about editors’ preferences. For example, the writers’ guidelines for WritersWeekly provide all the details about what to pitch (and what not to!).

Editors’ interviews are another source of “insider knowledge.” You can find them online, in reference books (e.g., Writer’s Market), and writers’ magazines. Look also for editorial calendars or lists of upcoming themes.

Find out Whether a Similar Topic Has Already Been Covered

Put into the Google search engine: site: mydreampublication.com + [my idea]. If there are no matches – pitch your idea! If there are links to similar stories, explain in your query how your article will differ from the previously published ones.

Examine Your Target Publication as a Contributor

When the writer’s guidelines do not specify the audience, do the research. If you target a print magazine – flip through advertisements. If you target an online publication, examine the Media Kit or “About Us” section.

Read several issues as a contributor to understand their topics and angles (e,g., “marketing” is a topic; “finding online travel markets open to new writers” is an angle). Think how your proposed article would fit between the previously published ones.

Try to figure out: What is so special about published pieces? Is it an unconventional approach to an “evergreen” topic, follow-up on a “hot” story, or an interview with an expert on a breakthrough discovery? What is their style, tone, voice, and structure? Are there subheads, bullet points, pull quotes, and sidebars?

Study article titles: Are they perky or plain? How many words do they have? Then, give your story an eye-catching title.

Remember: Your goal is not to analyze the quality of the published articles, but to learn what unique reading experience they give to their audience. According to Marion Bradley (a former editor), “A story may be bad in all kinds of ways, and still be salable, if it has some things the editor finds important.”

Check facts and provide details

Study the topic you want to cover, and give the editor details. Check the names, dates, statistics, etc. And, do not forget “take home value” – something beneficial that readers will get after investing their time in reading your piece.

Pitch to the Right Editor

If writer’s guidelines do not indicate to which editor you should pitch your story, choose Senior Editor or Assistant Editor. Online publications often put information about editors on the “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages. When you find the editor’s name, check online whether this information is correct. You may also check this person’s LinkedIn profile to make sure he or she is still the editor of your targeted publication.

Make Editors’ Lives Easier

Tell the editor for which department you’re proposing the article. Study the editorial calendar to pitch your seasonal story on time. Provide a couple of links to your recently published relevant articles. Always mention whether you have original photos. Editors are busy folks and they appreciate it if you save their time by providing illustrations to your piece.

If you are an expert to write on the proposed topic, mention your credentials. If not – explain which experts you will interview to ensure the required depth of coverage. If you pre-interviewed an expert, you may include her or his quotes. Or, you can mention that a certain person agreed to be interviewed for your article.

Use Your Bio as a Marketing Tool

When introducing yourself in the query, focus on information that presents you as the right person for the job. This tactic is especially useful when you do not have relevant publishing credits – or no credits at all – and I used it many times. For instance, when I pitched an article on plants to Creation Illustrated, I emphasized my gardening experience – and broke into this market.

And now it is time to put these tips to work! As Zig Ziglar (an American motivational speaker) said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”


Tatiana Claudy is a freelance writer from Indiana. Her bylines appeared in Creation Illustrated, The Upper Room, and The Secret Place magazines, and Writing-World.com and FundsforWriters e-publications.