Forget query letters for a while and think direct marketing instead. Not for you, you say? Perhaps you are a dedicated features writer, and certainly not interested in commercial freelancing? Even so, direct marketing can be a useful tool.
Consider the Internet. Ever been amazed by the amount of markets available there? Or overwhelmed by the amount of research that could lie ahead of you if you wanted to approach them? There are certainly too many markets to research them all in depth, and yet there are ways to reach editors with minimum effort: direct marketing.
As any commercial writer knows, a well-written sales letter can generate a healthy income, so why not use the same method to land yourself an assignment or two? If you do it over the Internet, the only cost is the time spent and any Internet connection fees.
Take a few points from professional marketing writers and couple it with what you know about writing e-queries, and you have the format for a letter selling your services. This way you can still keep up your marketing when swamped down with work, and you get the chance to approach publications you otherwise might not have found time to research.
Here is an example of one of the letters I send out. This is just intended to give you an idea of how it can look.
Looking for that European flavor? Or simply in need of a well-crafted article?
I am an experienced freelance journalist based in the UK. Whether you need a travel feature from a European destination; a critical report into alternative medicines; or something altogether different – I am here to help you. I specialize in travel, health, and relationships, but I have covered plenty of other issues too.
You need a story ASAP? I am your first call! You want something different? Send me an e-mail!
I am professional, quick and original.
My work has been commissioned by consumer magazines, trade magazines, newspapers, newsletters and for web sites. I write a monthly column on relationships for Mag, a Scandinavian glossy magazine, contribute regularly to Cornwall Today, a British county magazine, and I have edited the ANSA-UK Newsletter.
If you would like to assign me for an article, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I then invite them to contact me if they require samples or more information and list my other contact numbers.
Don’t expect a reply for every e-mail you send out. You might only get a reply ratio of 1 for every 20 or 30 e-mails sent out, but don’t despair. This could be a reply from an editor whose publication you might not have heard of before you tracked down the e-mail address. And those who don’t reply might not need your services at the moment, but if your letter sounds promising they might keep your details on file for a time when they do need you.
Here are a few hints before you start your own direct marketing campaign:
* DO sell yourself. No apologies, no uncertainties, only positive and reaffirming phrases.
* DO be short in your e-mail, but make sure you include your credentials, experience and contact numbers.
* DO decide on a USP (Unique Selling Point). Give them a reason to be interested. My USP, when contacting editors in the US, is that I am based in Europe.
* DO send the e-letter to yourself first to see how it arrives.
* DO keep a record of who you have approached at which publication when.
* DON’T be cute or humorous. It will either make editors cringe or distract them from the message.
* DON’T send the e-mail out with the To: and CC: lines filled up with addresses. This screams spam and unprofessional. Send the e-mail one at the time and be sure to include the editor’s name and the publication’s address as you would with a query.
* DON’T send the letter to web masters. Aim for the editor. Web masters often have nothing to do with contents.
Not sure where to find the e-mail address for the publications? The following web sites have links to online publications.
http://ezine-universe.com has links to e-zines in many categories.
http://www.allyoucanread.com has links to magazines. You can search by topic or country.
http://newslink.org has links to newspapers from all over the world, but with a focus on the US.
http://www.resinets.com/media has links to trade magazines, consumer magazines, newspapers, and TV, mainly in the states.
Sesselja Bigseth was born in Norway, but now lives in Britain with her husband, James. Sesselja is a regular contributor to Cornwall Today in Britain, and she writes a column on relationships for Mag, a Norwegian magazine. Her works have also appeared in other consumer magazines, newspapers, trade magazines and web sites. She is currently available for assignments in business-, copy- and features writing. Contact her at: email@example.com