My husband and I have owned and operated a computer sales and service business for over fifteen years. We are considered a VAR business; that is, a value added reseller. We use pre-manufactured components to build, load with software, and make computer systems Internet ready. Upon delivery we’ll install and test the unit. For service calls, we’ll pick up a malfunctioning unit, take it into the shop and return it – fixed. The pick up and delivery aspect of our business is an additional value that can hardly be purchased anymore. Our customers love it. Operating in this way has helped us stay in a very competitive game and it’s slopped over to my writing. It can for yours, too.
Of all the ways to get an editor to look at your work, none is more effective than that little extra something that tells him or her you’re the one for the job. Professional queries, meticulous research, a command of the King’s English – good practices all – but these things you should be doing anyway. By adding a little something extra you can greatly improve you chances of a sale.
- Read your editor. Editors write and they have something to say. Look at the editorial page of any glossy magazine and you’ll find out something about that person – the editor. Look at her photo. See that smile? This is a nice person who wants only the best for her readers. Read her editorials and her blog if she has one. Realize she is a reseller, too. She wants to buy work from you that she can pass on to her readers. Appreciate that. Absorb and comment (briefly) on her blog or in reference to an editorial when you query. Let her know that you know and value the work she puts into her publication.
- Offer extras. Is your query about a piece that required several hours, weeks, or months of research? No doubt you didn’t use all of it. Put together a sidebar or add links to websites and blogs that tie in with your subject. Offer photos or links to free photo sites that would compliment your work. Be excited about offering a bit more than what was asked for.
- Use quotes. Nothing sets the mood for a piece like an appropriate quote. If you write humor, for instance, find a Will Rogers, Mark Twain, or Jerry Seinfeld quote that suits the focus of your article. Quote a president for your essay on the history of pets in the Whitehouse or find a pithy saying about farm manure for your Grit article. I used a quote by Ian McEwan for a Children’s Writer Guide assignment. I wanted to equate fine architecture with story building and his quote set the stage beautifully for the slant of my article. Search the Internet for who has said what about your subject and consider using what you find.
- Be a willow. You’ve seen these lovely trees blowing in the wind. They weather the most brutal storms by being able to bend nearly to the ground when the tempest comes. Demonstrate your own bending power by staying open to what the market, readers, and editors demand. Change your slant, do more research, or cut and revise whole segments of your work. Do whatever is necessary to finalize the deal. No editor will fault you for it.
- Show staying power. It can’t be said often enough that persistence pays. That does not, however, mean that being a pest pays. Editors will fault you for that. But there are times when you must drop back, re-group, and get your bearings. Then you must surge forward as though you’re the best writer in the world. This kind of thinking fends off failure and impresses editors.
- Read other writers. How often have you read a great article, taken away something valuable and then gone your way without one scintilla of curiosity about the writer? I used to do it all the time until the name of one writer who consistently has her work published in Parade magazine intrigued me – Lyric Wallwork Winic. I went in search of her and learned that she really has no reason to fear me as a rival – at all. It never hurts to aim a little higher, however, and knowing the work of other writers helps us to aspire.
Nothing will trump hard work and determination in any endeavor in life, but doing a bit more is like putting a lovely bow on the gift you’re presenting. The value of it cannot be overestimated.