Five Things NOT To Do In Your Email Query – by T.M. Jacobs

Five Things NOT To Do In Your Email Query – by T.M. Jacobs

As writers, we all want to make a connection with the editor of a publication – be it print or online. We dream that he or she will simply fall in love with our every written word, we’ll receive well deserved praise, and the editor will call us asking for more material. When working online, we all hope for a quicker response than to the old fashion query with a SASE. However, that is not always the reality.

Being the former editor of a national magazine, as well as a freelance writer (and still receiving rejections now and then), I’d like to share with you five things that you should NOT include in an email to an editor when querying them.

1) Attachments – Do not send an attachment of your manuscript (or anything else) in your initial email to an editor. The first email is only to make contact – a simple short query about what you propose to write or have written. Also, don’t enclose your manuscript and/or any images that might go with your article in the body of the email. Going from one email router to another often changes the format of the text. The sentences can get jumbled and the paragraphs can run together. Wait for the editor to respond to your query, then send your manuscript following their guidelines. If the editor says send it snail-mail, then do that. Don’t email an attachment unless invited to do so. In your email, be sure to include your name, address, and phone number. Believe it or not, many people leave that information out.

2) Don’t use texting abbreviations – You’d be surprised how many emails I’ve received that read “how r u?” instead of “How are you?” That might be fine for texting to a friend but not when you’re trying to get an editor’s attention. Right off the bat, you have the editor wondering if you can spell. Be clear, precise, and spell out every word. Use spell check – most software has that function. Re-read your email a few times before hitting the “send” button. Maybe have a friend or family member read your query before emailing it to an editor. A second set of eyes can’t hurt. Also, try to keep your email brief and to the point. No need to share with the editor that your father was a bull fighter or that your mother met Elvis…unless those facts somehow pertain to your article.

3) Don’t send one email to 100 editors – It might save you an incredible amount of time to blast one email to a long list of editors. However, who wants to scroll through countless addresses to get to your query? Additionally, your email can wind up looking like spam, and get deleted, or end up in their junk folder before even being read. Send your email to the editor personally, visit their website, use WritersWeekly, or call the receptionist for the name and spelling of the editor. Carbon copy (CC) the assistant editor if you wish. With the editor knowing that you’ve sent this query to numerous publications, chances are they will pass it up without reading it. Remember, the editor gets numerous emails on a daily basis—interoffice, spam, personal—and they know how to use the “delete” button.

4) Don’t call the editor right after sending an email – Don’t waste your time and the editor’s time by calling him or her to say “You got mail,” right after you hit the send button. Most editors check their email on a frequent basis. With today’s technology, editors check their email at the airport, on the road, at home – basically everywhere. Also, keep in mind that editors (as busy as they are) do have lives. They take vacations, attend family gatherings, take care of their children, and take the dog to the vet appointment. For example, in my work, I try to respond within a few days to email queries. I will admit sometimes one or two might get by where I did not reply. Sending a simple reminder email in about three to four weeks, with “checking the status of” in the memo line, is sufficient. Keep in mind that bimonthly and quarterly publications are laid out well in advance so do not email the editor every two weeks checking to see where your article is in the process.

5) Don’t send vague emails – Occasionally, I received emails that said nothing more than “for your consideration” or “please read and consider for publication.” Remember, an email query is still a query. You need to make your request very specific and, just as you would with an old fashion snail-mail query, and you want to use correct spelling.

So, prepare your query, read it over carefully, and then hit the send button. Adhere to the five things not to do, be patient and diligent, and you will get more favorable responses.


T.M. Jacobs, a native to the shoreline area of Connecticut, now resides in various locations along the east coast with his fiancé traveling and working from their RV motorhome. He has published nine books, over 400 articles published in various newspapers and magazines, teaches classes on writing and publishing, and currently is the owner of Jacobs Writing Consultants. He is the founder and former editor for Patriots of the American Revolution magazine and has been a freelance writer for over 30 years. His book, The 1864 Diary of Civil War Union Soldier Sergeant Samuel E. Grosvenor: A first-hand account of the horrors at Andersonville Prison is a biography of Grosvenor who kept a small diary while in the Andersonville Prison. This title was featured on C-SPAN2 TV.

You can contact him at the following links:

Twitter: @Jacobs1776Tim


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