I know a good idea when I see one. So should you. Dump
those time-tested ideas youre sending off to
editors every other day, and find ideas that will get you
the assignment each time, every time.
How do you know whether your brilliant idea will strike a
chord and get you the assignment or land your neatly
crafted query in the slush pile? Use the following
checklist to find out whether you have a winner or
another stale idea that the editors been rejecting
since she set foot in her editorial office.
Here are some of the questions an editor will ask of each
If youre writing for a pregnancy magazine, chances
are the editor has already covered topics such as
exercises and diet regulation. What are you going to say
that stands apart? Can you provide a unique spin to these
topics? If yes, youve just made sale.
Think different. Instead of talking about diet issues,
list twenty food items that are to be avoided throughout
pregnancy. Be innovative. Come up with topics youve
never seen featured before.
Will the Reader Connect?
You may have the most innovative, brilliant and
mind-blowing idea. Yet, it may lead to a rejection if
youre targeting the wrong market. Send an idea
about getting over broken live-in relationships to a
magazine in India, and dont expect anything but a
rejection. But send it over to a singles magazine in
England, and you might have landed yourself an
assignment. The first thing the editor wants to know when
she lays eyes on your query is whether her readers will
value your subject matter. If her readers wont take
to it, she wont either.
Will it Keep me Captivated?
Picture this: I come home from a long day at work. While
I relax on my couch, I could flick channels on the remote
or pick up the magazine and leaf through the articles. My
eyes rest on your piece. Is your piece intriguing and
interesting enough to make me stay with you, or would I
prefer to watch whats on TV?
Its every editors fear. That her loyal reader
will ditch reading the magazine for something more
interesting. And with the number of entertainment avenues
available today, that wont be a problem. In order
to keep the editor (and the reader) keen on your idea,
youve got to suggest something that will keep them
wanting more. Does your idea have that virtue?
Is there a Surprise Element?
The more unexpected, the better. Readers love surprises.
Thats why, editors do too. Surprise doesnt
always have to mean an anti-climax or a situation of
complete irony. Surprises can be subtle, yet effective.
Add a little known statistic or a funny anecdote in your
article. Go out of your way to find an amazing fact or
figure. Dont go out of context though. Theres
nothing worse than getting sidetracked from the theme of
Whats in it For me?
What does the reader take home with her once shes
closed the magazine and gone her own way? Has she learnt
a lesson? Will she take with her an experience? Will she
be a better mother, daughter, wife or friend because of
it? In every article that you write, this question should
have the utmost importance. What can you give to your
Making an impact is very important. The article idea that
wont sell is the one in which Ill read
through the article, but in the end, simply wont
care. Youve got to give your reader that extra
something. Something she can think about on her way to
work. Something shell remember as she rests her
head on the pillow and falls asleep.
Regardless of the kind of writer you are, your ideas are
what make you a success. A good editor can fix the holes
in your writing, but cannot flesh out your idea. That is
something only you can do.
Editors love writers who consistently come up with fresh
and innovative ideas. Being swamped with a dozen queries
every day, most of them containing the same old ideas,
theyre always on the lookout for writers who can
provide a unique twist.
Keep a steady stream of ideas coming, run them through
this checklist, and send them off. Before you know it,
youll have more assignments than you can handle.
author: Mridu Khullar and the author of
Their Socks Off! A Freelance Writer's Guide to Query
Letters That Sell and the editor-in-chief of WritersCrossing.com
- a free online magazine for writers