QUESTIONS FOR BEGINNING WRITERS
by Leon Ogroske, Editor of Writers' Journal
1. Where can I get sample queries to learn the proper form?
Writer's Digest's 2004 Writer's Market has a section dealing with that subject. You should be able to find a copy at your local library. Perhaps an Internet search on the subject would produce some examples. With that in mind, you should realize that not all magazines ask for query letters. There are "proper forms," but it is not essential. Basically, a query letter states what article you would like to present to the editor and who you are. Be sure to include an SASE. The important part is that you know your market: Don't send a gardening article to a computer magazine, don't send an article about animals breeding to a nursing home magazine...you get the picture.
2. Is it best to submit a query or the whole article?
Each magazine has their preferences. Try to find the writer's guidelines for the particular magazine, in them, you should find help. Again, know your market. I know when we receive an article that has nothing to do with our publication, I can only roll my eyes-the author did not know the market.
3. Is it best to submit to one editor at a time or several (letting them know this is being done)?
Simultaneous submissions are ok. Again, the magazine's writer's guidelines should indicate whether they accept simultaneous submissions. The thing about them is that you can write one article and get it out to several publications-this is especially useful if the article is time sensitive, but it might put you in a predicament. Say a magazine accepts your article and wants first-time rights; you accept their offer. The next day another publication asks for the same thing, but is willing to offer hundreds of dollars more-too bad, you already gave first-time rights to the other publication.
4. Are pictures required?
I am not a photographer, but have some digital pictures of most projects. Check the writer's guidelines again. Some magazines will want photos (and even pay for them), others may not. Good photos do enhance any article. If the editor likes them and has room for them, he will use them. Even if you submit the photos, the editor should be given the leeway whether to use them. If the article can stand on its own, the photos are a plus. If you have to have the photos in order to understand the article, they better be good.
5. How can I understand the differences in "rights" being sold?
I could write pages about the different rights. Maybe a search on the Internet, or just looking up the terms in a dictionary will get you started. I will mention a few of the most important ones:
All rights. Try not to give these up. If the publisher is asking for them, be sure you want to give them up. Once he owns the rights to the piece, you cannot use the piece elsewhere-it is no longer yours.
First-time rights. You are giving the publisher first dibs on publishing the article. You might want to find out when they plan on using these first rights. As soon as they have published the piece, you are free to submit the same article to another market.
One-time rights. You are allowing the publisher to use the piece one time. You still own the piece and can submit it anywhere else. As a writer, one-time rights are the best to sell, it keeps your article free to submit to another market.
6. Also, I have been reading a lot about re-writing articles for different magazines, with a different slant? How is this legal?
If you are rewriting your article, you should be commended. For instance, an article on gardening: One market might cater to children–starting seeds might be fun, entertaining, and educational. Another market that caters to nursing home residents might love how you take the same subject (maybe even most of the same text) and expound on the therapeutic benefits of starting seeds. Is it legal? If it is your own article, yes. If it is someone else's article–no.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leon Ogroske is the editor of Writers' Journal, a bi-monthly magazine for writers, filled with information and tips on writing.
The contents of this site © 2001-2009 Bob Brooke Communications