Monthly Column – March



By Rusty Fischer

The Author Of Freedom to Freelance Reveals How To Get The Most Out Of A Simple Email To An Editor

Writing e-mail query letters is an entirely different animal than writing snail mail queries. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not easier, just different. Editors still expect to see formal language, proper grammar, correct spelling, and a tone of respect and cooperation-just not as much of it.

Here’s a few more editorial tips on what folks like me look for in an e-mail query:


This may sound obvious, but most editors are busy people and, as I’ve said before, we often have numerous projects running, continuously, on any given day. Saying something vague like, “In your ad for freelance writers,” doesn’t help me clue in on the project you’re inquiring about.

I find it quite useful when a freelancer actually cuts pertinent text from my Web ad, such as the heading or the first line, and pastes it in the first sentence of their query letter:

“In response to your recent ad for ‘freelance writers with a flair for children’s poetry,’ I would like to offer my services . . .”

Or something to that effect. Right away, I know what they’re looking for and have it in my mind as they go on about some childhood experience they’ve had, which is leading up to their pitch for writing children’s poetry. If they hadn’t included that little nugget, I might have found myself baffled at first and quite impatient by the time they gave me the “punch line.”


Lists are great. I love lists. Not long lists, mind you, but lists in general. It’s quite helpful to me when a freelancer organizes his relevant experiences into a short, concise list of credits:



  • Former preschool teacher, ’89-’92
  • 3 poems published in The Preschool Primer
  • Seven preschool lesson plans accepted by The Preschool Mailbox
  • My book, Preschool Poems & Promises, was recently published by Little Ones Press


This list lets me see, quickly and clearly, that the freelancer is prepared to give me what I need for the upcoming preschool poetry project. Unlike the following list:



  • Former preschool student
  • Seven articles on beer drinking accepted by Penthouse
  • My ex-wife is raising a preschooler by her new husband


Which brings me to another point, don’t list it if it’s not pertinent. You can be a published author of twelve books, but if they’re all on auto engine repair, they’re not going to help you write preschool poetry.

Knowing Your Capitals

Since many e-mail programs are not compatible with each other, it doesn’t help to compose your e-mail query in fancy fonts, colors, and backgrounds. It may look great to you, but if I’ve got Outlook Express and you’ve got Yahoo Mail, the chances are I’ll still be looking at a big block of black and white text in the font I’ve chosen in my preferences and the size I’ve chosen as well.

However, capitals work just fine. If you’re emphasizing something, such as your successful book series, HARRY POTTER, you might want to put it in all caps so that my eyes will be drawn to it. Or if you’ve already written for a BUZZ ON book, I might like to be reminded of that as well.

Be forewarned, however, that there is a fine line between emphasis and OVER-emphasis. For instance, DON’T TYPE ENTIRE FRICKIN’ SENTENCES IN ALL CAPS OR IT GETS REALLY ANNOYING AND THE THING THAT YOU WANT TO EMPHASIZE GETS LOST!!!

See what I mean?

Some Things to Avoid

While there are plenty of things I’d like you to include in your e-mail, there are just as many I could easily do without. For instance, I was approached by many successful freelancers during my tenure as an editor for The Buzz On series. Impressively, many of them worked for major corporations or Web sites, and were presumably writing me from work.

Hey, I’ve got nothing against that. (After all, I do it all the time!) But what I don’t want to read are those six line signatures at the bottom of your e-mail that state the name of the company, the motto of the company, the sales figures of the company, etc. If you don’t know how to get rid of those signatures, or can’t due to some company policy, wait and write me from home.

You can also do away with those cutesy, Life’s Little Instruction Book mottoes underneath your name, like: “Your attitude determines your altitude.” Number one, my attitude is my own damn business, and none of yours. As an editor, I work hard at not telling people what to do. The least you can do as a freelancer is give me the same courtesy.

Likewise, I get a lot of e-mails that include Bible passages or shameless plugs for a book the freelancer has just written, etc. A query letter is neither the time or the place to share your religious views or sell me something. (Unless it’s a magic potion that adds more hours to the day, of course . . .)


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