Thursday, January 10, 2008


So the past couple days I've been writing up query letters that I'm planning to send to US publications; I want to propose China-related article ideas to magazines, newspapers, journals, and new-media, in the hopes that they'll accept them on spec and eventually buy them as completed pieces.

I'll be posting the queries here on the blog, in the hopes that readers will comment with constructive feedback and/or suggestions about where to direct these queries (i.e., if you know of a magazine that would be really interested in this kind of story).

Below is the pitch for an article I've been working on with a Chinese friend of mine, that I'm hoping would be of broad appeal. I'd target general interest mags (Newsweek-knockoffs) and major online pubs such as Slate.

Watcha' think?

"Going to Market: Faces of China’s New Economy"

Zhao Jun sells bootlegged DVDs on the street for 65 cents.
Wang Chen runs a boutique fashion store that specializes in leather handbags.
Niu Bi founded a company that manufactures ball bearings for export to Romania.

China’s astounding growth of the past two decades is rooted in its smooth transition to a market economy—the ditching of government quotas and the throwing of a nationwide do-it-yourself get-rich extravaganza.

But behind the jaw-dropping statistics, the trade surplus and the WTO, China’s economy still relies on real individuals doing business at real marketplaces.

Fellow journalist M** Y** and I have taken to the streets to better understand the everyday people that are driving the world’s fastest-growing economy. From butchers at the morning market to businessmen doing major-money deals, we want to know how the shift to private enterprise has affected the lives of individuals—as well as hear their hopes, concerns, and expectations about the road ahead.

“Going to Market” will encompass profiles of several independent entrepreneurs that have staked their claim in China’s new marketplace. Relevant statistics and analysis will be provided via interviews with economics experts both in China and abroad. The completed piece will run roughly 1,500 words in length and can be accompanied by photographs if needed.

M** Y** is an interviewer and reporter and a native of northeast China. I myself am a freelance writer—living in China and fluent in Mandarin—with experience writing for both in-print and online publications both here and in the States.


La Mama said...

I think it's a good letter. Ijust wouldn't say "I myself am" just say "I am"

赵晨威 said...

duly noted, sir

Unknown said...

A few suggestions:

I'm assuming you changed these people's names to protect them. If you haven't, you should. If you already have, you might want to choose another name for Niu Bi as anyone who reads Chinese will have their thoughts immediately drawn to the swear word that shares the same pinyin.

Also, "fellow journalist" is not allowed as far as I know. As a budding journalist, you've gotta get familiar with the laws. As I know them, no Chinese national can write for a foreign publication/newspaper (although I'm sure the law is much more general than this). What most newspapers in China do is list something like (italics) M*** Y*** contributed reporting for this article

The idea itself is good, although sadly it's not really anything new to the block of China-watching journalism.

Have you read Dan Washburn's recent series on Golf in China? That was something new. Find those angles. Easier said than done of course though.

赵晨威 said...

Thank you! That's good criticism!

Yes, the names have all been changed. Niu Bi was deliberate and is definitely not what I would be sending out in real queries.

Excellent point about the fellowship of journalism. Is there a better way to indicate that this is a bil-lingual, cooperative project? Or is that something editors don't want to hear about?

I see what you mean about not being super-unique, but does that necessarily make it less interesting/salable?

Budding journalist that I am, I'm trying to find the line between the overly general and the overly specific. I will try to keep "new angle" in mind.

I just read Washburn's stuff. Very nice.