Kyle Wagner, the former travel editor at the Denver Post, joined us for our annual Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop where she shared a lot of great industry-insider advice.
And I’m going to let you in on one invaluable secret she passed onto attendees. It’s something, Kyle claims most travel writers don’t know about getting published… and it has nothing to do with what you write in your story…
It’s the way you pitch your story to editors.
“I’m amazed at how many writers think it’s OK to put 100% effort into their stories but only 40% into the query,” she said.
You have just 10 seconds (or less) to win over an editor with your pitch. Here are her suggestions for making those seconds count:
** 1. It’s all about the subject line and/or the first sentence.
A truthful editor will admit they rarely read an entire query letter unless they get caught by the first few sentences. Don’t waste that space by introducing yourself and the reason you’re writing. Just get into your story idea and make it good.
** 2. Use your writing skills.
Spelling counts. Use the same active verbs and strong adjectives as you do in your story.
If the lede of your article is strong (and it should be), you can actually start your query with the first few sentences of your article. Then tell the editor how you’ll finish the article and what it’ll include.
** 3. Just because it’s e-mail doesn’t mean I’m your drinking buddy.
Don’t use the editor’s first name, don’t start off with your credentials or the famous people you know, and don’t act in a familiar, informal way as if you and the editor were at a bar together last night. Address it like a professional letter: “Dear Ms. Kyle Wagner.” Or simply: “Dear Ms. Wagner.”
Be sure to keep these tips in mind next time you’re emailing an editor.