Some magazines bury their mastheads instead of proudly featuring them on their websites. This makes the pitching process more akin to guesswork than letter writing. It's times likes these that I'm thankful that I like puzzles.
Some literary agents eagerly share their contact info, and others have less online presence than my dog's pet rock. (Yes, my dog has a pet rock. I don't choose his friends for him.)
These roadblocks make it challenging for writers who want to form proper queries and pitches. We all know you can't start your query with "Dear Agent," but sometimes important information is elusive.
What should a writer do when an agent has a gender neutral name and no picture on their profile to help one determine if "Pat" is male or female?
The following techniques help me locate proper titles, addresses, and other essential info for my queries, without logging extra hours on my Mac:
1. Read the Publication. Be sure to check the print publication's most recent masthead. You waste time if you query editors that no longer work for the publication.
Between the print masthead and what you find online, you will often have enough info to complete your letter.
Reading the mag also helps you pick up on editorial changes. My two favorite mags, Women's Health and Cosmo, recently had new editors take over, and there's been some notable changes. Paying attention pays off.
2. Search for Social Media Profiles. If you have an agent or editor's name, but need more information (like proper title or the name of the publication they currently work for) search their name with and without the publication. At a minimum, this search usually pulls up their employer, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles.
Using this technique, I've also found editor and agent interviews. These tend to be research goldmines.
Peruse the search results and you will likely find the missing info. If you're lucky, the person's profile pic won't be a nature shot, and you'll be able to figure out if you're writing to a Sir or a Ma'am.
If this doesn't work, let me know and I'll ask my dog's pet rock if he has the person's contact info.
3. Google the Publication's Name + Masthead. This search often brings up buried mastheads and related contact info. If that doesn't work, search the publication's name + the name of the editor and see if that yields better results.
Another way to find current information is to check related webpages, such as the publication's press kit, employment, contact, and subscription information.
4. Search Databases. Newspapers are very forthcoming with their contact info, but if you are having trouble finding writer's guidelines or someone's e-mail address, try the Communications Constortium Media Center database. This list is for Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor, but it will get your search for other pertinent info going.
For agent and publisher contact info, check the QueryTracker database. The site offers more info for agents than for publishers, but the free search tools have come through for me more than once.
Other lists have been compiled by writers, but use them with caution as they may not be updated regularly.
You are one step closer to creating a compelling query letter or pitch. Don't slow down now.
How do you research for your queries?
If you have tips for helping fellow writers craft their queries and pitches, feel free to post them in the comments section below.
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