The acceptance rate for many freelance writers is between 25% and 40%.
In my own experience though, I’ve had an almost 75% acceptance rate.
Yes. But, it hasn’t happened overnight. From trial and error, I’ve picked up a few tricks that seem to make all the difference.
If you follow the 20 Commandments listed below, you should be able to turn your queries into paying assignments.
Here’s a suggested plan-of-attack!
1. Keep your query letter concise. Briefly introduce yourself and your article idea. Mention which upcoming issue your article will suit their editorial calendar
2. Always include 2 – 4 relevant credits and a link to your online portfolio; don’t make the Editor do the spadework!
Avoid attaching large files (e.g. massive PDFs) with your introductory query. You’ll choke their inbox! If you don’t have a website, ask if/when you can send over the PDF files.
3. Read several previous issues of the publication to get a sense of its tone and style.
4. Keep to the Editor’s original assignment spec; if you need to change anything, speak with him or her immediately. This assignment spec outlines the topic, scope and direction for your article.
5. Meet your deadline. If there is a problem, call the Editor immediately.
If you miss your deadline, you will probably not get paid, and you will certainly not get another commission.
6. Submit articles in the correct format, such as Microsoft Word. Don’t expect that they have MAC, Quark or WordPerfect. Ask the editor if you don’t know which format is required.
Be proactive in the best possible way.
7. Avoid over formatting the document. Keep it as plain as possible and you’ll save their production team having to re-edit your work.
If they provide you with a template, use it!
8. Send graphics in the required file format, e.g. TIFF files with 300dpi.
9. Whenever possible, send relevant art, charts, screen shots, tables and other graphics (with their sources) to accompany your story.
10. Include a list of sources used in the article, with names, company affiliations and e-mail addresses.
11. Proofread and spellcheck copy before submission. Then do it again!
12. Always keep your audience in mind when writing. Avoid jargon. Spell out acronyms on first reference.
13. Avoid promoting products and/or services in which you have a stake.
If you have a relationship with a vendor, say it to the Editor before starting.
14. Identify any sources (e.g. analysts, executives) that you mention. Don’t just say: “The CEO announced that…“. Mention his/her name upfront.
15. Spell out acronyms when first mentioned, e.g. that the UML is the Unified Modelling Language.
16. Define uncommon or little-used terms, e.g. virtualization; otherwise, only the technologies will know what you mean.
17. Double-check the spelling of individuals and companies, and use the name preferred by the company.
Check how to present company names, e.g. in PeopleSoft the S is capitalized. In addition, the correct term for the web portal is Yahoo! Inc – note the exclamation mark after Yahoo.
18. Avoid clichés, buzzwords and figure-of-speeches. It dilutes the impact of your writing.
19. Don’t indulge in hyperbole — i.e. listing superlative product features.
20. Send the article to the correct email address. This may sound obvious, but…
As I specialize in writing for business and IT publications, the emphasis here is on technology related publications.
However, I’m sure that if you follow the steps outlined above, you will improve your relationship with Editors — which is the first step in winning new business