One thing about being a writer is that you have to write well, especially when it comes to “selling yourself.” In other words, when you put together a proposal or write a query letter to an editor, the writing has to be as strong and solid as your article or book. Your correspondence to the editor should stand on its own merit. What you are trying to convey to your audience, potential editors and publishers, is the message, “I am a wonderful writer and you should publish my work! It will sell!”
Another aspect of your correspondence is the “cleanliness” of the letter. In other words, your mailing should be typed and neatly folded. The number of queries written by hand on crinkled paper is amazing.
If there are “typos,” homophonic, grammatical, or other mistakes, the message you are sending is, “I am someone who does not research well enough, I do not care to write soundly, and I certainly don’t proofread my work.” This is frustrating for an editor because he or she knows that working with an undisciplined writer will be labor intensive.
Will an editor work with an undisciplined writer? That is a good question. The answer depends on the talent of the writer. You have to remember that work is like electricity, it tends to take the path of least resistance. In other words, given the choice between a “clean” manuscript and a “dirty” one, editors may very well go the easy route.
When sending communication to a publisher or editor, the writing has to be an example of the author’s commitment to the craft. One has to take pride in the way words are constructed and put to paper (or to screen in this electronic age). To do this requires patience, discipline, and a healthy dose of dedication.
You must realize and remember that your correspondence with editors is an example of your work. If you send a letter to the editors with mistakes in it, that is what the editors will expect to see in your manuscript. In other words, your letters are a reflection of your capabilities. This can actually make a difference between an offer or a rejection letter.
When it comes to querying an editor, the writer should follow the guidelines of the company. Most companies will spell out exactly what they would like to see in terms of a query or proposal. You should follow these guidelines as closely as possible. After all, they are the instructions on how to communicate your idea to the important people within the firm.
Regarding hard copy submissions, make certain you include a SASE for the return of any work you submit. Many companies will not return submissions if they have to pay for it.
Another point about mailing hardcopy submissions is going the route of “Media Mail.” By marking “Media Mail” on both sides of your package and using media mail rates, you can save a significant amount in postage fees.
One more important point is that we live in an electronic age. More companies are doing business over the Internet and with email. By using electronic submissions, you can submit your work to more companies without incurring costs. If you do not have an email address, now might be the time to buy a computer and establish your electronic identity and mailbox.
© 2011 J. Clark