Why queries get rejected
Published: April 28, 2005
|Why a query might get rejected:|
- The editor, plain and simple, finds the subject uninteresting and one that will be of comparatively little value to readers. Put another way, the query fails to hook the editor.
- The editor finds the subject mildly interesting but too peripheral to the main focus of the magazine.
- The subject is mildly interesting, but the query gets rejected when the editor ponders what other competing material he or she wishes to sandwich into a limited number of slots in the magazine over the next year.
- The idea is not specific enough, or it wanders, or it's too vague and inadequately explained.
- The query shows that the writer has not taken the time to learn anything about the magazine. This is a very big turnoff.
- The publication has run a similar article in the last few years or already has such an article in the works for the near future.
- A publication has run enough on a particular topic and simply wants to give it a rest. (Examples at The Writer are writer's block and, well, rejection, both of which are currently taking a nap.) Your query may be perfectly fine, but if it's on a tired topic, the pub won't bite on it-though it may in a year or two.
- The query is on a still-desirable topic, but the editor sees that the proposed article won't deliver enough that's fresh, compared to what the publication has run on the topic in the last couple
- The publication has developed a substantial inventory of already-purchased articles and needs to wait for the backlog to clear before making new purchases. As a result, the pub will probably be extra fussy about new submissions, and the few that it bites on will probably be on hold rather than immediately purchased.
- The writer proposes a decent article but has comparatively weak credentials compared to those of other writers the magazine could use for the same topic.
- The magazine happens to have two or three competing queries in hand on the same topic. Chances are, somebody will lose. The winning query will probably be the one that makes the best overall presentation of a topic, or has the spin on the topic that best matches the editors' vision, or is by the writer with the strongest credentials.
- The writing, grammar, punctuation or proofreading of a query is so poor that it raises a red flag, making the editor lose confidence that the writer can deliver a quality article.
- The query says the proposed article will provide "6 tips" on a topic but then fails to describe a single tip. Don't keep the editor in suspense!
- The article that is sometimes submitted along with the query is decently written but just "not right" for the publication. What's not right about it? It could be the tone, the approach, the writer's attitude or the quality of expression, among other things. Editors who've seen a couple thousand queries and know their magazine intimately can sense this very quickly. An example: The Writer's general approach to articles is that they be straightforward and direct in providing useful advice. This means an article that meanders or dawdles will stand out, and not in a positive way.
- The query offers 10 article ideas in one letter--the equivalent of throwing a handful of pasta at a wall to see what sticks. This pasta almost always gets thrown out because some editors hate such queries. Unless you're a regular with a publication, develop one or two ideas at a time.
- The basics of good query writing remain simple: Be direct and clear, not cute and clever. Be interesting from the start, try to sink a hook in the editor, be brief and make sure your copy is clean. Sell your idea with well-chosen words and details, tell us a little about your writing background, then sign off after four or five paragraphs.
I hope my observations have shed a little light on a painful subject. If it's any consolation, many magazine editors--including this one--can paper a small wall with their own rejection slips, so they DO know what it's like to be on the receiving end.
--Posted April 28, 2005