Continuing our series of short interviews with freelance writers, I picked the brain of Kristen King (of InkThinker) on the issues of queries and rejections:
What motivated you to create the InkThinker Query Challenge? What's the most rewarding aspect of it for you personally?
I wish I had paid closer attention to my early thought process, because I can’t remember as much as I would like. It was one of those moment-of-brilliance things. I was sitting there thinking to myself, “Jeez, I wish I could find some way to get motivated to write more queries. I wonder if other people feel this way... Hey, I know!” and then the challenge was born. I hate the clerical aspect of it, but I absolutely LOVE the wonderful e-mails I get from Challenge participants when they get an assignment or crack a market they’ve been dreaming of for ages. It is the best feeling to know that [I] did something to help them achieve that accomplishment by encouraging them to take the risk.
How many queries would you say you write on average each month for potential freelance writing clients?
I am the worst offender when it comes to queries — or, more accurately, lack thereof. I quietly dropped out of my own challenge about halfway through last year when I realized that I just hate writing queries for magazine assignments! (I have recently come to realize it’s because I wasn’t querying the pubs I really wanted to break into, just the ones I THOUGHT I should want to break into, so that's changing a little.) I probably send out about 3 a week for various writing assignments, but few if any are for magazine and newspaper articles. My work has evolved to be more business writing than anything else, or assignments I get through existing relationships with editors.
What's the biggest difference, in your opinion (and if any), between query writing for Web-based writing gigs and query writing for more traditional publications like print magazines?
Ideally, your query letter should demonstrate the skills you purport to have. Since print writing and online writing are different, it stands to reason that the queries would also be different. The basic content is the same, but the presentation for online outlets would be shorter, more to the point, and less dense than a print query.
If you had to offer a single query writing tip to a freelance writer inexperienced with queries, what would you tell them? Do you have any favorite resources on writing queries that they should check out?
Can I give two? First, query only publications that you would want to write for if they offered you the assignment. If you’re querying because you feel like you have to but don’t really want to write for that pub anyway, you’re going to hate querying and not want to do it. Second, and this is something an editor told me once at a conference, is that editors want to hire writers who make their lives easier. Be. That. Writer. Do it from the first contact. Be clear, be professional, be easy to work with.
With query writing often comes rejection. It's something a lot of freelance writers struggle with. How do you personally deal with rejection? Do you find it easier now than earlier in your writing career?
The important [thing] to remember when you get a rejection is that the editor is not rejecting you. A rejection just means that the idea you pitched wasn’t right for the venue. It could also mean that you didn’t present the idea clearly or appropriately for the publication. Try to learn from every rejection and use what you figure out to improve your next query. It may take a while to get the hang of how best to approach a publication, but you’ll get there.
I just confessed to a friend the other day that my rejection rate is low because my attempt rate is low. I’m trying to work on getting more rejections under my belt. Well, actually, I’d like more acceptances! But the bottom line is that I need to make a commitment to write more queries! I don’t take it personally, but I do over-analyze and think everything to death, and I’m trying to stop doing that. It’s gotten easier, but I think most writers out there could use more work on sending queries right back out again if we get a rejection.