Bust My Excuse: I’m Not Sure How Long a Query Should Be!
I offer to bust readers’ excuses for not pitching magazines — or, if they’re pitching, for approaching only low/no-pay pubs. If you have an excuse you’d like me to bust, you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s Stacy’s excuse: I just sold my first query-ever! And while I’m excited to get paid for my writing, I’d like to pitch the big league magazines. I know I should be pitching FOB ideas, but I get super nervous. Plus my pitch letters are too long or too short. How can I find a safe middle ground?
A query should be as long as it needs to be to get your idea across. However, one mistake many new writers make is give too little info for the editor to be able to get a good idea of what you’re pitching. A query needs to have an eye-catching lede, describe the idea, give examples of what you plan to include in the article, and convince the editor that you’re the right person to write the article. You want the editor to be able to envision the article in her magazine. It’s hard to do all that in one paragraph! My first sale to a national women’s magazine resulted from a three-page query.
However, if you’ve worked with the editor before and have a good relationship, you may be able to get away with quick pitches. I have sold ideas that I described in just a paragraph or two, but these were to editors who already knew my work.
One rule of thumb: Your query shouldn’t be longer than the article you’re pitching. That’s why some writers prefer to just write up FOBs (Front of Book pieces — in other words, shorts) instead of pitching them — they say it would take longer to sell the idea than to just write it. And that’s fine!
One other thing: Don’t think that as a relative beginner, you have to pitch FOBs. If you have a great idea for a feature, go for it! If the editor thinks your idea would make a better short she’ll let you know — but why limit yourself? [lf]