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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Five Ways to Pump up your Query

When you freelance for magazines, newspapers, and online publications, it's your query-writing ability that either gets you the assignment (or at least gets your foot in the door), or doesn't. I've posted before about the advantages of querying, why you should query (even for FOBS), the 10 questions to ask yourself before you send a query, and have posted templates for you to use.

Ideally your query does more than simply pitch an idea; it provides the editor with a story "package" that makes it easy for her to say yes. Why not offer something "extra" in your query, like:
  • A sidebar. A sidebar is a shorter piece that complements that main story; editors and readers love them. For example, if you're pitching a feature story about a family whose children were diagnosed with an incurable disease, you might suggest a sidebar of symptoms and another sidebar on resources for/treatments for the condition.
  • A quiz. Quizzes are a fun way to engage readers, particularly if you're writing for an online market. Tell the editor how long you expect the quiz to be.
  • A round-up. A round-up is a group of quotes, tips, or advice from experts or "real people" sources. For example, if you're writing a piece on mentally preparing for a marathon, you could include a round-up of elite runners sharing how they get in "racing mode."
  • Photos. Usually photos are not the writer's job, but in some instances, photos can be a great selling point. If you're pitching a travel piece, for example, mentioning that you have high-quality photos increase your chances of selling the story.
  • A profile. When I recently wrote a piece on how to find love (and avoid weirdos) using social media sites, I included a profile of a woman who had recently reconnected with an old boyfriend from high school--and married him! I could have incorporated her story into the main piece, but it worked well as a separate piece as well.

Get the idea? Don't just pitch a story; pitch a package and you'll boost your query-success rate.