Query Letter Writing: Your Portfolio

So, it’s that time again: time to talk about tweaks to your query letter writing strategy!  Today I’d like to talk about your portfolio.  You know, the examples of work that prove you actually can write, and write about the subject you’re pitching.  You do have a portfolio, right?

Words Say a Thousand…oh, Nevermind

I was trying to come up with a clever metaphor to describe how portfolios help a editor visualise your work in their publication.  But it didn’t come out right, so let me just say this:

Writers who “kind of” fit what the editor is looking for but have an appropriate portfolio will fare better than great writers who have no portfolio.

It’s psychological – your editor probably doesn’t even realise this.  But the reality is that when we personally can visualise something in our head, it makes that option much more real.  And if the editor reviewing your query can picture your column in print in their magazine/journal/blog, that is definitely a good thing.

First, Get Your Website Updated

My advice here is unequivocal: writers need their own website (yourfirstnameyourlastname.com) and on that website they need a page with their portfolio.  The web is a virtual real estate land grab, and it is my view you will be sorry if you don’t take advantage right now.

Some writers have a site that really just says who they are, what they do, and some contact details.  Others have a personal blog and do a little more upkeep to their site, and that’s ok as long as you aren’t using that blog space to talk about how awful your clients are.  Big no no.

The best portfolio pages are:

  • organised: content is grouped either by theme (e.g. coffee stories, scientific articles, social media pieces) or medium (your books, blogs, print magazine, etc), or whatever groupings make sense for your work.  Make it easy to get around.
  • quick to load:  don’t load up the page with massive images of all the scanned items of your work.  Nobody has the time to wait.  make sure it loads quick and then I can wait for the download if need be when I choose which piece I want to read.
  • easy to find:  what if I got the link wrong, or just typed your main homepage into my browser.  Can I still find your portfolio?

Then Tweak Your Pitch

So, here are a few tips that I have found make a big difference in how my pitch is reviewed:

  • NO attachments.  Never ever ever unless specified.  The thing is, often these go straight into spam.
  • Point out your portfolio online, and then select a couple of pieces that specifically relate to the piece at hand.  So if you’re pitching about coffee beans, now is the time to point out you are a columnist for the Daily Coffee Journal.  If your piece is about the impending doom that is the Large Hadron Collider, point to some of your scientific studies that relate.

Do not let an editor just go and fend for themselves in your portfolio, draw their attention to the pieces that matter and let them wander around afterwards if they want.

The writers at the head of the pack have great portfolios.  How’s yours?

Photo by LWY


2 responses
  1. Rebecca Avatar

    I’m always tweaking my portfolio and website. I do the best I can with my website because I’m not a web designer. I can only do so much with CSS. Speaking of queries, I’ve sent out a few and didn’t receive a response. Does anyone have samples of successful query letters? I found a few samples on the internet and followed the format but didn’t receive a response. Perhaps my ideas were too radical for the publications … who knows …

  2. Andy Hayes Avatar

    Hi Rebecca,

    Just check the archives here at FWJ, plenty of great successful query letter examples!

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