"I'm going to propose an article to a magazine. I've been to 3 writers' groups on my ideas and a query letter. And, you guessed it, they're all different. One group has suggested I have a series of articles I could write, another suggests I present one article. since the magazine doesn't know me. One of the groups told me I have about 5 articles I could write, while another see 15. Talk about confusion! I'm not sure what to think."
Al's Axiom #32: "The only inexhaustible resource is human opinion."
Back in my days as a Baptist preacher we had a saying: "If you have three Baptist in a room, you have four opinions." The same can be said about writers.
It sounds like your article may be too broad. I haven't seen the query so I can't say for sure, but if folk think there are a dozen other articles in it, then you might be presenting too wide a subject. Can you narrow it down? If you can, then you should. If you can't, then your piece probably has the focus it needs. Think laser beam not spotlight.
Should you suggest a series of articles. Doubtful. Does the magazine publish articles in series? Have you seen a series in the magazine? Know thy target. Magazine editors usually need the article to be complete. There are exceptions of course. An e-zine which publishes weekly might work that way, but most print mags won't.
If you're just breaking in to writing for magazines, then focus on selling one idea.
That being said, all the magazine writers I know try to wring several pieces out of their research, reworking the material, emphasizing a different aspect, etc. and placing in other magazines.
One thing you can do, is mention to the editor that there are other facets to the big picture that might make good material for their publication. Include a short list with a line or two of description. Don't go overboard. Remember, query letters are supposed to be short, all meat, no fat. Offer to provide more information if the editor requests.
Bottom line, unless you know that the magazine you have in mind is looking for a series of articles on a subject, then just propose the one idea. If you can't place that idea, cue up the second concept and send it out. It is not unusual for a freelancer to have many queries circulating.
Got a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Alton Gansky is a full time writer, director of BRMCWC, founder of Gansky.Communications and host of Writer's Talk. He is the award winning author of over 40 books. Prior to turning to full time writing, he was the senior pastor to three Southern Baptist churches. In addition to his writing, he speaks to writers groups and church organizations. www.altongansky.com