Musings and Query Advice

Yesterday I received a delightful email from a reader in the Philippines. We had a nice chat, and I hope I was able to help her with her questions. As I’ve said before, I always enjoy helping other writers. So don’t be shy, send me an email anytime! Not only does it make me feel good to help other writers, but it’s an enjoyment to chat with writers like myself.

This reader informed me that she found my website by reading some of the articles I wrote. In essence, she said my site was so helpful she bookmarked it for later reference. In addition, she expressed that it was a blessing she got my name. Needless to say, her email made my day! It’s always nice to know you were able to help someone. :)

On another note, today, I was reading a newsletter I subscribed to (Writing Etc.), and the article in that edition of Writing Etc. was regarding query letters. After reading the article, I found I could relate to a lot of it. For example, the author said, “Well over 99 percent of all queries reaching the Filbert Publishing offices are completely contrary to our guidelines. Don’t fit whatsoever.”

I can’t count how many times I’ve experienced this dilemma since I started accepting submissions for Coffee Break for Writers. In fact, just a couple days ago a writer sent me a submission, but she sent it as a Word attachment, which means she failed to read the guidelines. The guidelines clearly state that the only attachments we accept are PDF attachments. I had no choice but to delete this writer’s submission unread, simply because she did not follow the guidelines. If she had of followed the guidelines, I would have viewed her submission.

Another piece of advice Beth Ann Erickson gave in her article was “be courteous and professional.” She goes on to say, “I’ve had writers chew me out, then expect me to hire them.” Unfortunately, I can relate to this as well, because a few months ago I received a total of approximately 15 articles for the second edition of On the Net Resource Guide for Writers, all from the same author. I didn’t mind that all the articles were from the same person, but the author was aware that her submissions would be on speculation, which means there is no guarantee that all or any of the articles would be accepted.

I took time to read each one of the author’s submissions, but upon review of them, I could only accept approximately 10 of the 15 articles. The reason I couldn’t accept them all was because some of them did not fit my editorial needs, and a few of the others had too many grammar mistakes.

I emailed the author detailing which articles I would accept for publication, and I clarified that I needed her to add a little bit of information to one of the articles in order for me to be able to accept it. She responded by saying she would add the information to that one article within a few days. I emailed her back saying that was perfectly okay, and I collected the information I would need from her to send a written contract and payment (upon publication).

A few days later the author emailed me back, but she didn’t send the information she said she would send. Instead, she questioned my rejection of five of her 15 articles. I politely responded explaining my reasons for rejecting the five articles, and she responded again, but this time she was very rude and asked me to withdraw the articles I had accepted. [superemotions file="icon_mad.gif" title="Mad"] Without hesitation (but with a heavy sigh), I withdrew the accepted articles. I didn’t hesitation because, one, the fact that she was rude for no reason showed me she didn’t know how to be professional, which her cover letter showed me that she was (or at least I though she was). And two, after being nice to her, I didn’t appreciate being treated like that.

I gathered from the author’s emails that she was unhappy about the rejections, because she had sent so many at once, but she knew and understood that she was sending them all on spec. Please, friends, if I or any other editor rejects a submission or submissions from you, know that it’s not personal. The article most likely didn’t meet our needs at that time, but if you’re professional and courteous, you could be accepted in the future; just keep trying.

As a writer myself, I know how frustrating rejections can be, and this is what makes it harder for me to send rejections to other writers. However, I also know from being a writer that you should respect editors, because they have a tendency to talk amongst other editors.

To find out more tips for submitting your query letters, read Beth’s Query FAQs in the January 1, 2007 edition of Writing Etc. Following her advice will not only increase your chances of acceptance, but it will increase the chances that an editor will read your query.

Update (added on June 23, 2010): Due to some changes with the second edition of On the Net Resource Guide for Writers, I’m no longer seeking submissions for the book. However, I still buy articles related to the writing and publishing industry for publication in Coffee Break for Writers.


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