Email Queries and Submissions: Guidelines and A Few Things to Remember

More and more editors are accepting e-mailed submissions and queries than ever before. In fact, some publications accept nothing else. E-mail communication is quicker and less expensive; there are no stamps and envelopes to buy, no SASE’s to fill out. It saves time as well. Instead of waiting days for it to go through the mail, it’s there almost instantly. There are several things to keep in mind when writing an e-mail query or submission:

Check the Guidelines

The guidelines will tell you if e-mail submissions are accepted and exactly where to send them. Many publications ask that certain types of submissions go to certain addresses so take note. Be sure you aren’t sending your non-fiction work to the poetry editor. Also check the guidelines to see how it should be sent- in the body of the e-mail, as an attachment, etc. Unless there is mention of how to send attachments, it’s a good idea to avoid them all together. Just like everyone else, editors have become wary of opening attachments. If there’s no mention of them, it’s best to put the submission or query in the body of the e-mail.

The Subject Line and Header

Once again, always follow the guidelines when filling out the subject line. The usual format is the word “Query” or “Submission” followed by the title or a brief description, i.e. “Submission: A Little Inspiration”. If the subject does not clearly state it is a submission or query it may get tossed out with the spam.

Be Brief and Formal

When writing the actual body of the message be professional and get straight to the point. Be sure to cover any important points you need concisely. One problem with e-mail is the tendency to turn too cutesy and familiar. Avoid acronyms, internet slang, or emoticons, and don’t forget to check for misspellings. Do not use any HTML in the text, and turn off any HTML settings you may have. The person receiving it may have it blocked. Also, do not use any font color besides black. You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) send regular queries or submissions in hot pink type, and you shouldn’t e-mail them that way, either.

If you have your submission typed up in a word processor like MS Word remember that copying and pasting it straight into the e-mail will fill your text with all sorts of special characters. This makes the piece rather difficult to read. One way to avoid this is to bring up a simple writing program such as notepad and paste the document into there first. Then, copy the text again from there and paste it directly into the e-mail. Notepad gets rid of the special characters, leaving your text readable in the body of your e-mail.

You may briefly state your credentials and clips near the end. Feel free to include any links if you have them, but once again, avoid attachments. As an alternative, you could let the editor know that clips are available upon request. If wanted, they could later be mailed or e-mailed.

Contact Info and Signature

Contact information goes at the end of the message, after your typed signature. Include your name, mailing address, and phone number. You can also include this information in your mail program’s signature, but save it for professional use only if you don’t want your personal information going to everyone you e-mail. Avoid cutesy or unprofessional pictures, quotes, etc. You may include a motto, contact information, information on an upcoming book, or even list your credentials within the signature. Also try to keep your signature shorter than your message.

E-mail can save you time and money on your correspondence with editors. By following the guidelines and keeping it professional, you can utilize this tool in your writing career and make things easier for you and your editor.

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