16 Tips for Writing An Email Query

by Anne Wayman

email-queryMany editors are willing to accept email queries, but not all of them, and that’s the first thing you need to know about the email query. But there’s more to this type of marketing than you might suspect. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. You’ve got to know if the editor or magazine accepts queries by email. Writers Market and other market listings often include this information; if not, pick up the phone and ask. If you can’t find out, use snail mail instead.
  2. If you’re going to send an e-query, make sure it goes to a particular editor rather than a generic or catchall address. If you can’t find a specific email address, use snail mail instead.
  3. Keep in mind that, like a snail mail query, your e-query is a marketing piece where you show a specific editor what you can do. Even though email can be quick, take time with this and make sure it’s right.
  4. Unless you’re instructed to do so, do NOT send an attachment with your e-query. There are so many viruses floating around many businesses, including publishers, delete them before they get to the desktop.

  5. Your subject line is key. Make it clear this email is a query and if you have a great title, use it, like this: Query – 10 Ways to Find Great Child Care
  6. Shorter is better than longer with an e-query. It does, however, need to be long enough to show why the article will work for the editor’s readers and why you should write it.
  7. Direct them to samples of your writing on your web site. You do have a web site, don’t you?
  8. Include your phone number as well as your snail-mail address—you want the editor to be able to contact you the way she wants to contact you.
  9. Double-check your spelling.

  10. Print the email query and read it out loud before you send it.
  11. Save a copy of each e-query on your computer. I have email folders for each client; you probably want to do something similar.
  12. Be patient; if you’ve heard nothing in two or three weeks email a brief, polite follow-up, or even better, pick up the phone and call.
  13. Since you don’t know what email program the editor is using, don’t indent and keep your line length at 80 characters or less—this will keep your e-query looking neat. If you draft it in word you may have to paste it into notepad and paste it into your email program after that.
  14. Send your e-query to yourself first to get a reasonably good idea of how it will look.
  15. Avoid any special formatting like bold—you simply don’t know what it will look like on the other end.
  16. Never, ever use html. Again, you don’t know if the editor’s email can handle html and even if it can, you’ll look like an amateur.

Have you had good luck with email queries?

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Iti May 19, 2010 at 8:39 am

hi Anne,
I always find your tips and articles very useful and helpful too. I also reside in India and face the same impediments from long time..but the most problematic situation over here is that freelance writers are not easily welcomed. I write articles but don’t know how to send them for publication houses or which online sites accept articles with paying compensation for them. I hve my blog want to monetize it but how to make my content strong and how to increase the traffic.
Please anne suggest me some ways to work.
I will be highly obliged to you, If you please consider my request and do the needful.

Reply

Anne May 19, 2010 at 11:48 am
Anne May 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Aparajita, one trick will be to make wire transfer easy for your clients… simple instructions. And remember none of us started with any credits at all. Published pieces count; so does the blog… if the writing is even close to decent and I suspect it is, use ‘em.

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Aparajita May 7, 2010 at 1:59 pm

:)
“…none of us started with any credits at all”
Yes, I suppose I did forget that, at least for a while. :) I’ll keep your advice in mind next time I write a query. Thank you once again. Have a good day!

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Aparajita May 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Thanks for the tips, Anne. I’ve gone through numerous such articles on how to query, but I never seem to get it right. In fact, very few editors (or even people putting up ads on Craigslist) bother to respond, and I can’t really understand why. I don’t know what I’m getting wrong…but of course, there are factors beyond my control.
> I’m located in Kolkata (Calcutta), India
> I don’t have a Paypal account. No credit card, either.
> I’m too young and have too little experience/educational qualifications. I’ve only just graduated from high school and am about to join college.
I am very open about these when applying for freelance jobs, and consequently turn off many prospective clients. And I’m sure people can guess I’m a greenhorn from the way I write. But even though I haven’t got a lot of clients, I have been lucky to get the ones I have got. They have been very nice to me as clients, and even better as friends! I totally agree with what you’ve written in the About page- it is possible to make great friends online. :)
P.S.Sorry about the length of this comment.

Reply

Anne May 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Aparjita, you don’t have to tell them how old you are… I don’t either because I’m at the other end. And don’t tell them you’re inexperienced – just submit what they ask for.

Suspect you’re going to have to get a paypal account somehow… how else can they pay you? Can you get an American check cashed?

Your English is excellent… parlay that one client into more…

Reply

Aparajita May 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Yes, checks from any country can be cashed, but few people would want to send a check when they can pay by Paypal without any hassles. But I have a Finnish client- he uses wire transfer, which is a quicker and safer option than checks. But again, people prefer Paypal.
As for telling them how old I am, I guess I can avoid that. But when it comes to submitting samples, or listing credits, I have very few reference points. I do have some published pieces in a local English newspaper (both in print and online), and also a blog, but those pieces aren’t exactly flattering.
Thanks for your reply, Anne. It helped in boosting my morale. :)

Reply

Chris January 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Extremely helpful tips! It’s interesting how employers/editors use attention to deal as a way to screen candidates. It’s a great way to find out if you’re dealing with someone who follows directions. I like your mention of #4. These days we all have to be careful with attachments.

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Anne January 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

Yes, sometimes coloring within the lines is a good idea, at least once and a while ;)

Reply

Denise Johnson May 31, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Most of my queries are done via email and I have had great success. Also, you can check to make sure your email isn’t getting blacklisted (placed in the editor’s spam folder) by going to http://www.mxtoolbox.com. It’s free and helpful if you think there might be a problem.

Reply

Anne June 1, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I looked at mxtooxbox and didn’t quite understand it… will it tell me if my email is blacklisted?

Reply

Devon Ellington May 30, 2009 at 12:15 pm

In addition to keeping a copy of the query in the folder, I also keep a Pitch Track Log and a Submission Log (depending upon whether it’s just a pitch/query or a full submission), so I can follow up after a reasonable amount of time, if necessary.

Devon Ellington’s last blog post..Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reply

Anne June 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Good tip Devon, as usual. When I was doing a lot of queries I actually had a spreadsheet set up with categories including title, where submitted, date submitted, response, response date, resubmission, etc. plus the amount I earned. Tracking makes a huge difference imo.

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