Monday, October 4, 2010

Industry Submission Standards—Part Two

Last week, in Part One,  I shared general submission standards for our industry. This week I’ll share how to handle an email query professionally. Ten years ago, virtually all submissions were handled through snail mail (that’s with an envelope and a stamp). Now they take place through the Internet. There are good things about that—the time factor has improved slightly. And not so good things—with formal letter writing obsolete, it’s hard to know how to present yourself as a professional without appearing to be part of the Stone Age.

Query Letters/Emails
This is the correspondence when you are INQUIRING about an assignment (this applies to both non-fiction and fiction). Even though you aren’t typing this on a real piece of paper, it’s important not to forget everything you learned.
  • Include all your contact information at the top of the email
  • Use a polite salutation (like Dear Mr. Jessup)
  • Make certain you have the correct name
NOTE: You can check this on the organization’s website. It is also a good idea to make certain you have the correct gender as well. As I’ve mentioned in the past, it really irritates me to be referred to as a Mr. when I’m a woman.
  • Keep your correspondence focused and sharp
  • End politely (Thank you for your consideration)
Here are a couple of things NOT to do.
  • Just because you don’t have a specific page length in an email, keep it as short as one typewritten page. Being long winded won’t get you a job. All editors are incredibly busy and don’t have time to read long dissertations.
  • Do not expect an editor to take time to click on a link. What I’m talking about are links to online portfolios or your personal website. It is fine to let the editor know that you can send them links to articles that have been published (these are known as clips). But unless requested, don’t assume they have time to visit web pages to see if you can write. That is part of the purpose of this correspondence. As a part of your ending signature it is acceptable to include a personal link or two.
Next week I’ll share how to format a cover letter and a proposal.

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  1. I think a good way to judge whether or not you're one page - or longer - is to first draft your email on a MS WORD document to judge the length, then copy and paste.

  2. Great suggestion, Britt, thanks for the advice!