Five tips from an award-winning journalist to help you send that query and get work regularly.
Regardless of whether or not you send that query regularly, I can guarantee you’ve been guilty of obsessing over your any that you do. I know you have spent countless hours procrastinating.
Don’t worry, I come bearing efficiency tips. Here’s how I’ve learned to stop obsessing and send that query now:
1. Divide and conquer
I do my work in batches. I’ll look around and study markets for two hours, then think up story ideas for the next two. I’ll do the creative work of actually writing the queries once I’ve mixed and matched those ideas. This saves time because jumping from one task to the other—finding a market, finding an idea, writing the query, finding the name of the editor—takes at least three times longer than simply finding five markets, researching a dozen story ideas, hunting down all the appropriate names in one go and then sitting down to write the queries up one by one.
2. Do it in bursts
Not only do I divide up my marketing, but I divide up my writing day similarly. If I wrote one query a day I know I’d write five great queries a week but get nothing else done. So I’ll set aside a day (or two, if I’m desperate for work) and just do all the querying in that day and send out as many as I can.
3. Use a template
You can’t use a fixed format for most of the query, but for things like your bio and sign-off, it’s easy to copy and paste. You might still have to tweak it, but that’s okay as long as you have the basics down and aren’t writing from scratch every time.
4. Let it go
Don’t dwell on every single word. Just do the best job you can and send that query. I’ve made mistakes in my queries and they still led to assignments. Your content, the idea, is the most important part of your pitch. If you have that right, most of the rest is forgivable. Writers focus too much on writing that perfect first sentence and not enough on whether their idea is even a fit for the publication they’re pitching.
5. Make a list of other markets
When I’m doing market research, I might find a few magazines that would be good for an idea or story. I don’t do cold pitches much any more because I have relationships with editors and hear back quickly, but I still make this list so that if one editor passes I have half a dozen other markets I could send that query to quickly. Once you start pitching regularly, you’ll have tons of ideas that haven’t yet found homes. Having a list of prospective markets saves you time when they come back rejected.
How to Pitch: Pitching guidelines for 200+ publications
We know that finding markets to pitch your story ideas, understanding what they’re looking for, and making sure they pay an amount you’re comfortable with can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the job. So we’ve tried to make it easier for you.
Here’s a list of publications, organized by subject and with a note of their pay rates, each with a link to their guidelines.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Publisher, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the publisher of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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