Why Query Letters Are Important

Today I got a response from Exterminating Angel Press regarding a submission to their magazine. Though the poems were rejected, I was invited to write an essay about being a young poet and my particular writing style. This invitation came from my explanation of my writing style in my original query letter, and the chance from my investment in the specific editor of this specific press.

It’s amazing what new opportunities will be opened to you if you care as much about the editors as you wish the editors would care about you. I opened the query letter by genuinely complimenting a poem written by the editor herself, and followed that with points of hers that I thought tied in with my own poetry, thus explaining why I chose to submit to her press. I then explained a little bit about myself that you wouldn’t find on a resume- that my poetry is diary-like, written in cycles from one May to the next with the poem count high in the hundreds. That my collection themes are chronological rather than thematic. That I’m only 19, but have been published 29 times in 7 different journals. I then asked if she would please consider my poetry, while expressing the honor it would be to be a member of the Exterminating Angel community.

Her response was sweet, understanding and kind. When I asked for the deadline for the essay, she responded promptly and clearly, with an invitation to submit poetry to them again (since I originally missed the whole point of themes in the magazine).

I have reason to believe that one of the main reasons why her response was so warm (other than her being awesome) was because I myself had gone out of my way to be warm (which I actually did because I have a genuine interest in being a part of this press/magazine, judging from what they have written about what they look for and excerpts from the magazine). It makes a big difference, sending your work with a form letter or sending your work with a personal appeal to the editor. We as poets hate to get form rejections, don’t we? Why treat the editors we entrust our art to with any less respect than we ourselves expect? This experience has really pushed me to rethink how I will be sending my submissions from now on (believe me, I’m guilty of templating the heck out of submissions myself). I will now be treating all editors with the same amount of regard as I did with the editors of Exterminating Angel, and will refrain from wildly submitting every-which-where just to get my work out there, when I am much happier even getting a suggestion to write something wildly different from a publication that I am excited about submitting to.

Life lessons lie where we least expect, people.


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