Magazine Query Letter Sample

by Anne Wayman

writers-inkWhen 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:

  1. Read two or three copies of the magazine in detail, including the advertisements.
  2. Read the masthead which will tell you which editor to address and may give you a link to some guidelines.
  3. Read the magazine’s website. The address is probably on the masthead; if not, google the magazine name. You want to know their audience
  4. 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)
1234 Anystreet
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

Sincerely,

Anne

Anne Wayman (8)
7898 My Street:
San Diego, CA 92124
858-555-1212


(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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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer August 29, 2014 at 7:27 pm

You don’t seem like a careful or precise enough writer to do any of these things accurately enough to get someone to take you seriously. I’m certainly not.

Reply

Anne Wayman August 30, 2014 at 8:37 am

Jennifer, I’ll just say thank you for posting and let both of us move on.

Reply

woodworking March 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let
you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.
woodworking recently posted..woodworkingMy Profile

Reply

annew March 19, 2013 at 9:01 am

Well, without knowing where you were looking, the page url for example, I can’t fix it.

Reply

Sarah March 1, 2012 at 11:12 am

Thank you so much for this information! I’m looking to write short personal narratives for magazines targeted to moms. I’m wondering if it would be appropriate to include the story with my query letter…or maybe at least part of it? Because I don’t have experience being published with any magazine before, I was thinking if I included some of my article, it would allow my writing to speak alongside my letter. I would appreciate your advice on this!
-Sarah

Reply

annew March 2, 2012 at 6:41 am

It never hurts, particularly in the beginning, to enclose your story with your query … it then becomes what’s known as an over-the-transom-submission. The cover letter is just that… “Enclosed is my over the transom submission.” Always follow market listing advice over mine… good luck… let us know what happens.

Reply

Andrea August 11, 2011 at 2:09 am

This is such invaluable information. Thanks Anne!

Reply

annew August 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

you’re welcome Andrea.

Reply

John Soares August 2, 2011 at 10:51 am

Excellent example of a query letter Anne. Editors at quality magazines can get thousands of queries per month, so it’s important to write one that really stands out.
John Soares recently posted..Freelance Writer’s Guide to Landing and Scheduling an Interview with a VIPMy Profile

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annew August 2, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Thanks John!

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