10. Failing to get the editor’s actual name for your query. “To whom it may concern” is the mark of a rank noob. Even if you ARE a rank noob, don’t do this. EVER.
9. Failing to spell check all e-mails to potential paying sources. ‘Nuff said.
8. Not reading the instructions. Do the guidelines say NO ATTACHMENTS? What makes you think YOU’RE the exception? Editors HATE people who don’t follow the directions, and they round file accordingly. Me? I don’t even give them a CHANCE. Does that make me a jackass? YES. But I am the one behind the desk.
7. Talking money up front. DO NOT discuss payment in a QUERY letter. Let the editor tell YOU how much they are willing to pay. To do otherwise sounds presumptuous. If you get all the way through the query stage and have started to write the piece and haven’t heard about payment, THEN find a tactful way to raise the subject.
6. Do not query before breakfast, before coffee or after beer.
5. Failure to follow up. Never send a query and let it disappear into the ether. Always follow up, even if it is just to say you’ve found another market and you are sending a courtesy letter. This will stick out in someone’s mind–courtesy is always appreciated by editors.
4. Sending unrelated resume items. Editors do NOT care that you were the president of your college cheerleading club or the head of the basket weaving department. If it is relevant to your pitch, include it. If not, dump it.
3. Admitting you have few clips or credits. Why bother to send a query at all? Why not just write a rejection letter to yourself in the name of the publication instead? You’ll save time. If you want to catch the editor’s eye, don’t waste time talking about what you HAVEN’T DONE. Tell them what you CAN do.
2. Sending a query without your contact information. Always include more than an e-mail address. Send the full monty INCLUDING relevant links to your work where possible. Make yourself very easy to find.
1. Being anything but polite, accomodating and willing to bend over backwards a new editor. If they want it in five days, give it to them in three. If they want 100 words, give them EXACTLY 100 words. If they want a sidebar about hot air ballons sailing into the rings of Saturn…you get the idea. Editors expect new freelancers to be willing to go the distance. Oh, and you have to find a way of doing this that does not seem like excessive kissing up, too.