Inside the Mind of a Managing Editor: What Makes or Breaks a Query

In 12 years of publishing experience, I have received my share of queries from hopeful writers. I have seen the good, bad, and ugly along the way! Whether submitting a book manuscript or magazine article, follow these Do’s and Don’ts to ensure you write a query that is well received by the Editor.

  • Do be familiar with the magazine. There is no quicker way to ensure your query is dismissed than writing one that doesn’t fit the magazine’s focus. If possible, review several copies of a publication before submitting a query to make sure your query is on track.
  • Don’t submit queries with grammatical errors! If the query is not in good shape, the Editor will not assign you a longer project. Editors want to take good writing to the next level. Mediocre writing lags the production schedule and chances of using a writer again. You can submit your writing anytime to so that you can rest easy that your query or book is without grammatical errors that might hold your writing project back.
  • Do consult the guidelines for submitting. In today’s market, many book publishers will not accept submissions from anyone but a literary agent. Others gladly accept queries, want entire chapters submitted, or ask for the entire book. Some just want outlines. Check the guidelines before submitting to save possible wasted time and effort.
  • Don’t critique or complain. Slow response? No response? The editor will not respond positively to negativity. Be patient. The worst reaction I ever received? I was sent a certificate of award for being a mean Editor! (I’m not kidding either!)
  • Do find creative twists on tried and true topics. How do you take those tent pole issues and provide a creative take on a topic? Look at the last several back to school issues before submitting your own back to school topic. Brainstorm for a creative book title that grabs an Editor’s attention from the start. The more creative you are, the better. You just might catch the attention of an Editor … and win an assignment!
  • Don’t be a high maintenance writer. It’s great to ask questions but don’t go overboard. Editors are glad for you to clarify but limit your questions to the most important ones. Yes, e-mail is the preferred form of communication but don’t abuse this convenience. Lots of back and forth is tiring to an Editor in today’s world of nonstop e-mail.
  • Do ask for an editorial calendar or for needs the editor has currently. They just might give you a leg up on those who blindly submit queries, especially if no other writers have submitted on a specific topic.
  • Don’t miss your deadline! There’s no quicker way to lose an Editor’s trust. If you know you are going to miss a deadline, e-mail ahead of time and renegotiate a date. You must meet this second due date on time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *