Selling Yourself to An Editor

Some writing advice is timeless; some needs to be adjusted over time.

An example: At one time, a written query, complete with SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) was the only acceptable way to approach an editor with an article idea. Now many editors want queries only by email.

Whether you’re submitting by regular mail or email, however, you need to present yourself ( and your work) in the best way possible. Editors and agents expect you’ll do a bit of horn-tooting in your queries, but Lisa Collier Cool advises you not to do it too loudly. Best foot forward, but don’t overdo it.

I’ve written before about Lisa Collier Cool and her book, “How to Write Irresistible Query Letters.” It’s chock-full of timeless advice about selling yourself to an editor or agent, including this: don’t create a negative impression. Because editors want to buy from writers who believe in their own work, she says you should avoid even the slightest expression of doubt.

She even lists these five Terms of Indecision to avoid:

This book (or article) would …. (the use of the conditional tense subtly suggests a lack of confidence in your work). Instead, always say: The book (or article) will… (this implies that you consider its publication a certainty).

I’ll welcome your editorial input. Bad because it sounds as though you’ll need editing. Surprising as it may seem, today’s book and magazine editors prefer to do as little editing as possible…. This is equally true in the magazine business, where the fqst-paced schedule of putting out a monthly or weekly publication leaves minimal time for editing.

I know there are a lot of other books/articles on the topic…. Why offer an editor a ready-made reason for rejection? Rephrase as “My book differs from others in the field because …. ” or “My article will be the first to explain….”

I’m an unpublished author…. Work on creating a strong bio emphasizing your other qualifications–don’t draw attention to your lack of publishing credits.

I’ve written six other books/articles, but this is the first one I consider worthy of publication…. The suggestion that you have a hoard of unpublished works that you consider to be of interior quality strikes terror into an editor’s heart as she envisions your query being followed by a deluge of unpromising material. Avoid referring to other works you’ve written unless they are either published or presented in your query as candidates for publication.

Lisa’s advice is right on target.

I’ve had my copy of “How to Write Irresistible Query Letters” for more than 20 years and refer to it often. It’s chock full of advice that really is timeless. The book is available at, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers, if you’d like to take a look.

© 2008 Laverne Daley

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