The Query Queen

Friday, January 29, 2010
I don’t work today, so I’ve put in a full day working on queries, conducting interviews and writing articles. Since yesterday at this point in time, I have made one submission; drafted, printed, addressed and stamped two queries; conducted one interview; and completed one article. I’m somewhat ahead of schedule with the novel (although I keep forgetting that February is a short month!) and was somewhat behind on my freelancing schedule, so I’m glad to have spent today getting everything where I wanted it to be before the month is done.

I love brainstorming article ideas. I love flipping through my copy of Writer’s Market and thinking of all the wonderful articles I could write for the publications I happen upon. I do not love writing query letters.

For one thing, I don’t feel that my article ideas are fully formed until the end of writing the first draft. When that’s the case, it hard to feel as though I’m presenting my (brilliant) idea to the editor in a way that oozes perfection and suitably rather than transparent half-assed-ness? (Half-assed-ness?!) On top of writing sterling query copy, research also must be done to insure the publication hasn’t just published an article on a similar topic and to verify that the proposed angle will be a good fit for the publication’s audience. Most writers do not usually use adjectives like “fun” to describe the query process. “Painstaking” and “tedious” are more like. That, and “necessary.”

Although, depending on who you talk to, maybe not.

In this day and age of online content, freelance writers remain on constant guard against content mills or farms. That is, media companies who appear to offer writers reliable, quality opportunities (write about any topic!) but usually fall short in their promises of fair compensation.

A certain content mill who seeks to put forth a reputable image (I’m not going to name names, but they have a full page ad on the back of the latest issue of Writer’s Digest) gets a little testy when called out. The president of the company has responded to several of the bloggers who have complained about the dissonance between the company’s promises and actual rewards. In these responses, one of his arguments actually is that when he was a young struggling freelance writer, fresh out of college, he would have considered himself lucky to have had a reliable source of income instead of spending countless hours writing query letters to various markets with no guarantees of monetary reward.

Who am I kidding? I’d sure be glad to save the time it takes to form a well-crafted query to a respected market that pays $400 an article and instead settle for $10 for the article this company pays too!

Forgive the sarcasm, but for Chrissakes!

I will groan and procrastinate about the query process. But in the end, I will sit down and research markets and make copies of my clips and scrupulously edit and proofread my query letters. As Wayne Gretzky once said, “100% of the shots you don’t take, don’t go in.”

So it goes with query letters. You might end up going wide of the net, but there’s every chance it’ll go right through the goalie’s legs.

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