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Query? Complete Article? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

question puzzlesDear Anne,

I am about to send my first query letter (or letters) to the editor of an American niche magazine about German culture. Being that I now live in German-speaking Switzerland, I have several ideas for articles that I believe may be of interest to the editor.

Unfortunately, I am not quite sure how to pitch my stories. Do you suggest I send a separate query for each idea, or one long query with all of my ideas?

Since it would be the first time I write for this magazine, or any magazine for that matter, should I instead send a completed manuscript for one of my ideas, and hold off on the other ideas? Please help!


A San Diego native living in the heart of Europe

Hi A,

Switzerland! They have snow and cold there, don’t they? I’ll wave or come visit in summer 😉

Since you don’t have any magazine credits your best bet is to write one or two articles ‘on spec’ and submit them as completed manuscripts.

In your brief cover letter state the article is being submitted ‘over the transom’ which simply means on speculation and that you don’t (yet) have any contacts there. You might include in that letter one or two additional ideas just to show you’re flexible.

Be sure you enclose an SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) unless their website says you can submit online.

When I was writing for magazines I’d often say something like enclosed is a copy because I wanted submit to other magazines at the same time – the dreaded simultaneous submissions. Magazine editors always say they don’t want you to do that, but unless they are willing to pay me for an option on my work, I ignore that particular stipulation.

Will you be writing in English or German?

Good luck, and let us know what happens.



Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Hi Meg, thanks! (By the way, I am the “A” in the above letter to Anne.) I too keep a blog about my life here. Maybe I should have stated that before…

    The publisher clearly states in the submission guidelines, “Please ensure that we are the sole recipients of your manuscript.” This kind of freaks me out! So, I’ve created an article that is written directly for this niche market (but I could of course rework to fit another market later). In addition, like Anne suggests, in my cover letter I am including some ideas I have for other articles. Plus, I will include links to relevant stories on my blog.

    I hope this works!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Badi Time =-.

  • Meg

    This touches on the simultaneous submissions issue. Seems like doing it wrong (whether that’s sitting on a great piece until you hear back from a slow editor or getting in a mess with two acceptance letters) can be trouble. Any advice there, Anne?

    And A: I got my best credits and connections writing as an expat in China! I also sent some magazine-style posts on my expat blog as writing samples. Good luck!
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..I do not think that word means what you think it means. =-.

    • Anne

      Like I said below, or is it above… in comments anyway… later today or tomorrow I’ll do post on simultaneous submissions.

  • oops, also, I meant to ask, when does an article get too old, and what do you suggest we do to convince potential editors that we are ready and willing to update, edit and otherwise alter a completed piece written to both their editorial specifications and to account for any changes to information that may have occurred since the time our piece was first completed?
    .-= Bill´s last blog ..Rearranging Our Pieces, Playing With Our Future =-.

    • Anne

      Bill, I don’t think you can convince an editor you haven’t worked with before that you’ll update. I think you have to submit a new article. Think back on your editing experience… as you probably know there’s never enough time so editors look for pieces they can use now.

  • Anne, thanks for responding to this question. I’ve just discovered your very helpful resource here (thanks to Deb Ng) and this particular discussion gave me a chance to reflect on the whole issue of simultaneous submissions. I’ve been taking that stipulation rather literally and I wonder how much that might be to my detriment as I try to pitch some professional work I completed while I was finishing my master’s degree last year. Even having been an editor at an alt-weekly – and having done a professional graduate program at Annenberg – I still didn’t have a clear sense of effective querying, even when I have either creative story ideas or high quality completed work (or at least what I consider to be such). Thank you for giving me and others more to think about during the first stumbling steps on the business side of freelancing.

    That said, I still worry about annoying or otherwise starting off on the wrong foot with potential editors. Is that a risk we might run by sending simultaneous submissions?
    .-= Bill´s last blog ..Rearranging Our Pieces, Playing With Our Future =-.

    • Anne

      I’ll do a post on simultaneous submissions… either later today (wed) or tomorrow…

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