How I Got More Writing Assignments With Multiple Personality Querying

I’m on vacation today, but please enjoy this useful post from FundsForWriters’ Hope Clark:

By C. Hope Clark

When pitching magazine editors, the need to nail story premise and hook, plus match the publication’s readership, are a given. Many writers, however, use a cookie-cutter bio in that query, cutting and pasting it from a Word file, as if sending a standard form to the government.

Every word in your query needs to be tailored to the magazine, including the author’s history. That bio needs to be as attractive as the story idea itself, because the slant of the bio could ultimately nail the contract.

Each of us is multi-faceted and holds numerous experiences, education backgrounds, and skills to be used and prioritized as needed. Here are my tips for tailoring your bio:

Use Your Education

I’d just moved into a newly constructed home. Enter the local landscaper. He spoke to me like I was June Cleaver knowing little more than how to iron the perfect pants crease, until I told him I had a degree in agronomy, i.e., a science of producing plants.

That evening, I researched publications and found Landscape Management Magazine, a resource for landscape contractors. I sculpted the bio to begin with my degree. I never mentioned I was editor of FundsforWriters or wrote for Writer’s Digest.

Thirty minutes later, I had a gig advising landscape contractors on how to approach potential customers.

Use Your Experience

My proposal to College Bound Teen emphasized my skills as a previous human resource manager for the federal government. I landed a piece to address qualifications of federal employment for college graduates.

Use Your Life

A pitch to Next Step Teen included a bio that listed mother of teen sons on top of the HR experience. They accepted a story about my sons and their friends involved in job shadowing.

A query to Women as Managers, a business newsletter, mentioned my personal experience with a discrimination claim, and they accepted my piece entitled Ignore the Harassment.

Use Your Personal Interests

I once served on the board of a nonprofit that supported teen writers. So I lead my query with that connection and immediately nailed an article entitled “Why Johnny Needs a Writing Mentor” for Voices of Young Advocates Magazine (VOYA).

Use Your Knowledge of an Evergreen Topic

You may know nothing about lawn maintenance, but you might be a pro at business, social networking, or self-promotion and can pitch those skills for a proper feature to lawn care providers. A piece on business cards or navigating a convention may accent your entrepreneurial expertise, and find a home in a dozen different trade publications representing a dozen different professions

Use Your Chicken Soup Mentality

Each Chicken Soup book has a specific theme. Ever sat and stared at the six or so topics and tried to manipulate your experiences to suit them? That’s the mindset. Take your talents and tweak them, putting them in a proper order of priority to suit the situation.

 

Make a game of redefining yourself per the needs of that magazine and rewriting your bio to fit. Approach each case with a different bio, a different inverted pyramid presentation of your history, experiences, and education, leading with your strongest for the story at hand.

By choreographing your bio for the audience, you increase your odds that your query will find center stage in magazines.

Have you ever redefined your bio for a specific market? Leave a comment and tell us how you change it.

Hope Clark is editor for FundsforWriters, one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 12 years. She just released her dream project, Lowcountry Bribe, A Carolina Slade Mystery from Bell Bridge Books.

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22 comments on “How I Got More Writing Assignments With Multiple Personality Querying
  1. Nice. I never though of it this way. Thanks for the tips! Now the hard part: identifying something I am good at (besides writing). 😛
    Elizabeth West recently posted…Vocabulary – O YeahMy Profile

  2. Barbara C. Dykes says:

    Hope , I’m sending a comment and hope that it gets to you. I’m very green on these new computer skills that I feel like I need to use. Never thougth about a bio in that light. I’m going to try and use these suggestions to improve it. Barbara

  3. Thanks for the information, but what I got from it was not that you won
    those assignments thru clever bio manipulation. Rather, you got them by
    writing a great query letter, and even more important, by being able to
    identify ripe markets that (presumably) pay well.

    Sure, when a landscaper pitches you, it’s pretty easy for any savvy
    writer to find magazines that might accept an idea for an article aimed
    at landscapers.

    But how did you uncover those other markets? Did you always start with
    an article idea and then look for appropriate markets? Or did you
    discover those high-paying markets and then craft stories to pitch them?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

    Robert

  4. Anabelle says:

    These are all excellent ideas… It also forces you to look at your knowledge, personality and experience and the positive things that they bring to the world.

    Do you also use these to come up with story ideas? Or do you find the publication and then craft a story?
    Anabelle recently posted…Live to Write, Write to LiveMy Profile

  5. Ali says:

    Being an ex-it pro-turned-freelance writer, I’ve modified my bio many times, Clark and it’s been extremely rewarding 🙂
    Ali recently posted…At Last: Google Answers ‘Are My Pages Indexed In Google?’My Profile

  6. Amanda socci says:

    Hope:
    These are perfect reminders for any writer. I had already known to slant bios and experience per writing publications, but it was nice hearing it come from your perspective and the particular reasons why this approach worked so well for you.

    Thank you.
    Amanda socci recently posted…Behold Your ChildrenMy Profile

  7. Craig says:

    I got your message. Not every experience or qualification we have is deemed relevant by prospective clients, so we have to tailor-make our resume to show how we can perform best at the job they offer.

  8. Cathy Plum says:

    Man, more great tips from C. Hope Clark ~ super! Thanks for sharing.
    Cathy Plum. Freelance Writer/Editor

  9. Excellent information for freelancers. It is so hard for us (writers) to sell ourselves, but I’ve really strengthened my skills in that area thanks to posts like these. Being armed with the information that the audience wants to hear is vital to my sales.
    Mahala Church recently posted…Visions of WritingMy Profile

    • Hope Clark says:

      You are right, Mahala. But we are the only ones who can make the sale, so we have to sell ourselves as well as what we’re marketing. The bio is a huge tool.

  10. Karen says:

    Love this post. Love C Hope Clarke. Love Make a Living Writing. Hate querying editors. This is a big help though. Off to write some queries incorporating all your suggestions.
    Karen recently posted…Maximize Your Book Sales and Exposure by Using Your Free Author Central AccountMy Profile

  11. Janey Goude says:

    Great post! Copy and pasting a bio? Guilty 🙁

    This reminds me of Paul becoming all things to all people. He emphasized the aspects of his life that gave him the greatest opportunity to connect with the person in front of him.

    Carol made the point on yesterday’s boot camp call that the world is full of poorly written copy. While there exists a segment within the writing profession that concerns itself with technical excellence in the written word, perfect syntax is not the goal of writing. Businesses, and even some publications,are not concerned about good writing. They want to connect with their audience. When presenting our queries, we need to focus on our relevance more than our writing expertise.

  12. Glori Surban says:

    I never actually tried pitching a magazine or a newspaper before, so this are great tips for when I’ll finally be able to have the guts to do so…

    I’m a nurse by profession and I tried being a teacher and a language editor. And I’m trying to think of my other “personalities” for future reference. 🙂

    Thank you, Hope!
    Glori Surban recently posted…This Introvert Wants to Enter the DenMy Profile

    • Glori Surban says:

      Yikes! … so THESE are great tips for when I’ll finally be able to have the guts to do so…
      Glori Surban recently posted…This Introvert Wants to Enter the DenMy Profile

    • Hope Clark says:

      Yep, we are all endowed with multiple personalities. I haven’t even listed all of mine! I guess writing for the federal government taught me to “spin” anything, and that includes how to present myself to a market or editor. Yep, spin can be a good thing.

      • Vinil says:

        wow… never thought about multiple bios.. I always thought you need to be consistent with who you are.. but yes, we all have different personalities and tailoring your bio to fit the needs of the publication makes a lot of sense..
        Vinil recently posted…The Professional NetworkerMy Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        I loved this guest post because I’m ALWAYS doing this with my bio! I’m whatever’s relevant. “I’m a longtime real estate writer…” Next: “I’m a longtime business-finance writer…” and so on.

  13. Steve Maurer says:

    Fantastic article, Hope!

    I hadn’t thought of having multiple bio information, each tailored to the specific circumstance. That make a lot of sense, though.

    You’ve definitely given me a more powerful tool when pitching articles and such.

    Thanks for sharing your insight,
    Steve Maurer
    Maurer Copywriting
    Steve Maurer recently posted…What Your Writer Needs to KnowMy Profile

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