The first article I ever submitted was accepted, published, and paid for – about $300, if I recall. And, I was hooked.
I proceeded to write and submit everything I could, and it was all rejected. I began to suspect that I was a flash in the pan, alone-shot Willy, not a real writer.
Thanks to a loving wife and a burning desire to write, however, I persisted. But, I started studying how to do it right. I studied various available magazines. I bought Writer’s Market and studied the guidelines. I studied how to write appealing queries and cover letters. I wrote about what I knew or was learning. I then wrote and submitted articles that markets wanted, and by their rules. Then, my work was again accepted.
I had so much success that I got a job teaching writing classes in high school. Then, my publication and teaching experience led to a job as an editor with a government defense contractor. When the end of the Cold War closed that door, I continued editing independently, and taught writing for a large homeschool cooperative, while still writing articles for publication. For another eleven years, I wrote history curricula for a textbook publisher before once again returning to independent writing.
Yet, over the years, my idea of writing success included having a book published by a traditional publisher. But, I had no book to my credit. I studied publishers who wanted the type of material I wrote, narrowing the field to two. I then prepared identical query letters, and hit the “send” key. Within an hour, one publisher expressed interest, and asked for a full proposal package, and the first three chapters. By the end of the day, the other publisher replied similarly. I could supply the requested proposals because I had already studied how to do that, and I already had most of the manuscript written. My goal became a reality when McFarland Publishing offered me a contract for Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries, which will be published this year.
The keys to writing success are still the same:
- Study markets and guidelines.
- Write what you know (or learn).
- Submit “by the book” (i.e., according to each editor’s/publisher’s guidelines).
- Be willing to take on other work as you write.
- Be patient and persistent.
These steps have worked for countless writers over the years. And, they worked for me. If I can do it, so can you!
Dennis L. Peterson is an independent writer/historian based in Taylors, S.C. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Writer, Blue Ridge Country, Country, Good Old Days, Scouting, Elks Magazine, Railfan & Railroad, numerous educational magazines, and many others.
QUERY LETTERS THAT WORKED! Real Queries That Landed $2K+ Writing Assignments
Peek over the shoulders of highly successful freelance writers to see how they earn thousands per article! The query letter is the key!
In these pages, you'll find real query letters that landed real assignments for national magazines, websites, and corporations.
- Abbi Perrets' form letter that brings in $30,000-$45,000 annually
- Sample phone query from Christine Greeley
- The Six Golden Rules of Queries and Submissions...and How I Broke Them! by Bob Freiday
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- and ANGELA HOY'S SECRET for finding ongoing freelance work from companies that have a stable of freelancers, yet never run ads for them!
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