When you want to propose an article to a magazine, a query letter is probably the best way to do it unless the editors at the magazine already know who you are.
A query letter is, at bottom line, a sales letter. Your goal is to sell yourself and your article idea to an editor who can buy your idea at the magazine you’re querying.
Before you actually write the query there are four things you must do first:
- Read two or three copies of the magazine in detail, including the advertisements.
- Read the masthead which will tell you which editor to address and may give you a link to some guidelines.
- Read the magazine’s website. The address is probably on the masthead; if not, google the magazine name. You want to know their audience
- Read the market listing in Writer’s Market.
When you’ve done these four things you’ll know exactly who the audience is and you will have absorbed a good sense of the magazine’s style. The market listing will give you additional clues about length, needs, and, maybe, other helpful items including payment terms.
Now to the sample query:
Ms. Smith, Managing editor (1)
All About Magazine Writing (2)
New York, NY 11011
11 Tips for Query Writing (3)
1. Read at least three issues of the magazine before you do anything.
That’s the first tip in the article I’m proposing with a working title of 11 Tips for Query Writing. The goal is to show your readers exactly what editors want and need in queries. (4)
The completed article will be about 1,000 words and can be delivered to you in hard copy and/or via email within two weeks of your acceptance. (5)
I’ve been a successful freelance writer for more than 20 years, and I’ve also edited several magazines; I know queries from both sides. My writing credits are at http://www.annewayman.com. (6)
I’ve enclosed an SASE ,(7) or you may respond via email at anne at aboutfreelancewriting.com
Anne Wayman (8)
7898 My Street:
San Diego, CA 92124
(1) Find out the editor’s name and title – if you have to call and ask.
(2) Publication name – bogus here, but get it exactly right in your query.
(3) Some will argue that you should start with the typical Dear Ms. Whomever, Editor, and you can’t go wrong with the more formal approach. On the other hand, editors have little time and getting right to the point with a great title can be very effective.
(4) This sentence addresses why this article will appeal to the readers of this publication… it shows you’re familiar with the publication and what its readers want.
(5) This section spells out exactly what I’m suggesting… the editor is in a position to know what to expect, and when to expect it. This kind of detail allows the editor to plan ahead, or to respond with an alternate suggestion. For example, print editor might suggest shortening this piece to use as a sidebar. But note, although I recognize that possibility, I’m leaving it up to the editor to make the suggestion, rather than confusing the issue.
(6) Here’s where I sell myself. In my case, I do have this kind of experience; if you don’t, that’s ok. (See No Writing Clips? No Problem!) If you don’t have a website you can sum up your experience with a short sentence like “My published credits include articles in Latitude 38, OpenGate and several local newspapers.” The idea here is to reassure the editor you’ve got some experience. (You should have a website – see Do Writers Need Websites?)
(7) Self Addressed Stamped Envelope - Proof it, mail it and log in when you mailed so you’ll know when you submitted your query.
(8) Always make sure you include complete contact information, including phone number. It’s not unusual for an editor who wants the proposed article to pick up the phone and call you.
Does the letter seem short? It is, but that’s a good thing. Short, maybe pithy, and to the point, that’s what you want in your query letters.
How do you approach query letters?
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