How to sell your article

How to sell your article – fast and correctly.

I recommend strongly against “query letters”.  I hate them, as do all editors.  You “query” if an editor is interested in your idea.  Editors aren’t interested in ideas – they want finished, polished articles to consider.  Anyway, 95% of an editor’s mail never gets to him/her.  The assistant culls all mail.  Of the 5% the editor looks at he replies to one or two and tosses most in the waste-bin..

THAT is the terrible reality of life today.

Writing query letters make a student feel he/she is DOING SOMETHING, but it’s just time-wasting.  I encourage students (even though uninvited), to send in the article (after phoning . . . see the other side?) with a short attached covering letter like this below?.  A professional editor knows from 30 seconds of skim-reading your article if he wants it.  He has such little interest in your covering letter, that he wants it short like this example below.


When writing a COVERING letter, follow PRECISELY these five rules:

  2. Let your article speak for you.
  3. A super-short COVERING letter allows the editor to get on with 30 seconds of skim-reading your attached article.
  5. If your article is accepted, NEVER then send-in changes to your article . . . you will greatly irritate your editor.


This is my short, businesslike example COVERING LETTER to which your article is attached

36/301 Elizabeth Street

Adelaide SA 5000

Kerry Nurk


phone (08) 7533 9283

mobile 0411 751 212

7 September 2010

Ms Mary Smith


Whoopy Magazine

231 Collins Street

Melbourne  Vic  3000



Dear Ms Smith:

I am the Adelaide journalist who spoke to you about this article on the phone on Tuesday.


I offer for publication a 1,053-word article titled “The Prime Minister’s favourite meals his wife cooks”.

Also, six photos of the PM eating.  Offered at your publication’s going rates.

Yours sincerely,




  • Article in hardcopy / word attachment
  • Six photos, numbered, plus captions with numbers
  • SSAE: stamped self-addressed envelope
Always use a NAME.

ALWAYS phone publication to get updated, correct name and spelling.

Make sure you get current title 100% correct.


Always use the publication’s name, NOT the company’s name.

Re-check editor’s exact address when phoning editor’s office.

Get right to the point. Editors are busy!

Say exact wordcount right up front.  Important to editors.

Write a descriptive title, and the editor knows right away what it’s all about.

Not the right time to haggle yet!

Your signature  Don’t write guff about where and when to contact you and willingness to talk

about this and that.  Editors aren’t idiots.  They know your contact details are in

your letterhead. They have the right to make changes if they buy, without asking you.


Article in hardcopy, or if you emailed it, in the body of the email itself.

Conveniently allows editor to skim-read it quickly.

Article on disk/USB (“Word” format) or attached.

Allows editor to edit electronically, and insert in the publication.

Six colour photos, numbered, plus captions with numbers

SSAE: stamped self-addressed envelope

It’s good manners to ALWAYS send a return envelope (if you sent a hardcopy instead of email)



How to sell your article: GET OFF THE PHONE!!



If you are foolish enough to delete or change any of these tried-and-tested instructions, you will fail.  If you do each one, you have a chance of your article being seriously considered.

Don’t be rude.  Don’t be insulting.  Don’t be unprofessional.  Be sure to have read MANY editions of the publication you are targeting.  I’m shocked at the high percentage of students who offer unacceptable articles to publications they have never read and studied.  1.?DONE

PHONE FIRST  Ask for the editor or whatever other name you can find in the publication.  Never trust lists.  If you get through to the editor, be fast.  Always pay a compliment first, like: “Your publication has done fantastic articles on XXX.  My name is [so-and-so], and I’ve written an article you’ll LOVE on [XXX].  I’m sending it now and I want to double-check your [street address or email address, whatever].”  2.?DONE

In other words, don’t ask meekly: “May I send you my article on [XXX]?”  Firmly TELL the person this article is on its way, and you’re simply after accurate names, titles, addresses and a phone number.  Snail-mailing with a disk/USB and hardcopy is best, but if emailing find out if they prefer the article as an attachment, or inside the email itself.  Many editors refuse to open email attachments.  3.?DONE

If you find yourself talking to someone other than the editor (personal assistant, secretary, deputy), get that person’s first name and surname, title, direct phone number or extension and email address.  Spell both names back.  Be sure of the title.  4.?DONE

That’s all !!!  Don’t try to trap someone into a conversation.  DON’T SELL !!!!   You want two bits of information:  1.) you want to be SURE your stuff is correctly addressed, and   2.) you want a name and phone number to follow-up within two working days.  5.?DONE

Be efficient.  Be professional.  Be fast.  This may be GALACTICALLY all-important to you, but it’s irritatingly UNimportant to the person you’re talking to.  They feel you’re interrupting their working day.  So don’t waste a second of their time.  6.?DONE

If emailing your article, make sure your name (given name first, surname second) appears as the sender and the email subject line should read: “[XXX] story you are expecting”.  If snail-mailing an article, be sure to send a disk/USB also.  The 14pt Times Roman hardcopy allows the editor to quickly skim-read it.  If she wants to use it in her publication, the disk allows her to edit quickly and insert the story into the publication’s production system.  7.?DONE

EXPECT  your article, disk, photos and stamped self-addressed return envelope, to get lost.  It’s unlikely, but if they do, it won’t matter because you have copies, don’t you?  If the publication is not interested in your article, they may well forget or ignore returning your material.  8.?DONE

TWO working days later you phone your contact.  Quickly, politely ask three questions only:

“Did you get it?” …. “Did you read it?” …. “Would you like to use it?”  9.?DONE

I can’t stress strongly enough that you must not waste the person’s time with chitchat or talking about yourself.  If you’re asked anything, answer quickly and professionally.  No matter how friendly someone is at the other end of the phone, basically they want you OFF the phone so they can get on with their work.  So as always, make the other person’s life easy.  Be quick!  And do what they MOST want you to do: GET OFF THE PHONE!!   10.?DONE

You must see it from an editor’s viewpoint.

TIP 1: Don’t bitch, whinge and complain about editors who do not respond to your letters, emails and faxes.  Don’t sit around thinking: “What a rude person.  I go to all that trouble and he/she hasn’t even got the courtesy to reply, and reply quickly.”

TIP 2:  Think of how you treat the material that turns up in YOUR letterbox:  You don’t respond to every pamphlet, sales message, catalogue, circular, advertisement and all the other pieces of “junk mail”.  You not only don’t respond, you probably don’t read any of it.  You not only don’t respond and don’t read it, you probably throw it straight in the garbage bin.  You may hate all this paper guff so much, you may have a sign on your letterbox demanding

“NO JUNK MAIL”.  TIP 3:  Your editor feels just like you.  Every day he/she is inundated with “junk mail”.  It consists of completely unusable ideas and articles totally unsuitable for his publication, and dopey or begging letters.  Your editor does not have time or patience to sort through all this junk mail so most of it goes, unread, into the bin, exactly the same way you treat your junk mail at home.

Hurtful?  Sure is.  We all wish other people were deeply interested in us and our dreams, and ready to help, guide and care.  But what I’ve outlined above, is the harsh reality of the freelance life today.  ?  I have noted this harsh truth.

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