Five Minutes With The Editor: Erica Friedman

In an ongoing series for Writer’s Residence, editors talk to us about what they look for in pitches and queries.

skitched-20091021-113354.jpgThis week we talk to editor and publisher Erica Friedman.

As founder and president of Yuricon & ALC Publishing, Erica has seen her share of query letters and knows what impresses her:

“When I get a query letter, the writer has 3 lines to impress me and the first line *needs* to be “Hello, my name is…and I am writing to you about….” You would not believe the number of people who get this wrong.”

In addition to publishing, Erica is also an expert in online marketing. She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about query letters, the importance of reading writer’s guidelines and getting started with social media marketing.

You can read more of Erica’s work at SocialOptimized and Okazu.

Let’s start with the basics. What makes a query letter easy to deal with?

When a person has read and understood the guidelines, isn’t trying to be clever and has done two minutes of homework, so they know what I’m looking – and not looking – for.

For instance – I always ask for a 3-4 line synopsis of a story. I give an example. Instead of following my example, people send in incomplete marketing-copy that gives the setup, but not the meat of the story or the conclusion. I don’t want to read “wackiness occurs.” I want to know what wackiness occurs and how it ends up.

Do you want to see writing samples with the query?

I don’t want to see writing samples. I want that short synopsis and, if I like the idea, I’ll get back to you for the story. I already have a writing sample – your query letter. If that is unfocused, rambling, over clever or unnecessarily convoluted, I have all the information I need to say no. If it’s clear, concise, pleasant and writer seems like they’ve got a good idea, I’ll go ahead and ask for more.

*I* hate attachments. That will not be true for all, or even some, other editors. This is why I say that following the guidelines is critical. I hate to waste time – mine or yours.

If a writer includes a link to their website with their query, do you visit it?

I don’t visit links to sites. I’d bet that few people do. We don’t have time. Put your link in your sig and leave it there. If I have a second and want to visit, then I can. Don’t point me to it.

What qualities do the best pitches share? What about the worst pitches?

The best pitches are confident, short and business-like. They contain previous relevant experience, and a grasp of what I’m looking for, as well as that elusive short synopsis.

The worst are very long, filled with irrelevant material, and the scent of no real experience or professionalism.

The absolute worst are angry replies to my gentle rejections. I am as gentle as possible but rejections still are rejections. I understand you’re hurt. Learning to accept that is part of the business. (http://www.sainttail.com/rejection.htm – great page of the kind of not gentle rejections you might get.)

Is there such a thing as the perfect query letter?

There is no golden ticket to getting your work read.

Follow the rules the agent/editor/publisher/site has and don’t assume they don’t apply to you. Write concisely, professionally and do not waste time with rambling letters.

Luck and skill play equal parts in being read. It’s really just that simple.

Is there anything else to getting published besides writing a great query letter?

I’ve seen what torture authors put themselves through, trying to find one person who gets their genius, but it’s not like that, usually. Usually, writers and artists simply think they are better than they are at their craft. And the reality, despite everything all the magazines say is that, who you know trumps what you know or do.

One of your specialties is social media and online marketing. What is the first simple step you’d recommend writers take to use social media to market their work?

The first step is to look for groups/forums/lists, etc of people who might be interested in your work and then talk to them. Not at them. Don’t jump into a discussion with a sales pitch. Get to know your group, use your sig for links and become a highly regarded member of that community. *Then* you can mention your work from time to time and you’ll see results. Build your audience – then market to them, not the other way around.

Thanks again to Erica Friedman for the great interview. Don’t forget to visit her on the web at SocialOptimized and Okazu, the blog for Yuricon & ALC Publishing.

One Response to “Five Minutes With The Editor: Erica Friedman”

  1. George Angus Says:

    Monica,

    I love reading from real world folks about query letters and what works/what doesn’t. Given the responses I’ve seen from editors, it sounds like there are enough folks out there making big enough mistakes that if I pay attention and keep my nose clean, I’ll do all right.

    Cheers!

    George