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Query Question

writing for syndicationDear Anne,

I am preparing my first query letter using your suggestions and I would like to ask your advice if you don’t mind.

Quick background: The other day I happened to pick up the inaugural issue of a local monthly paper. I noticed it was a little light on content, using newswire stories and most of the articles were written by the same few people. I decided to contact the editor about freelancing for the paper. My question to you is two-fold.

  1. I’m interested in writing an ongoing column for the paper. Should I mention this initially or just try to get my foot in the door with one article and then bring it up?
  2.  If it is OK to query regarding a column, should I still follow the format you outlined and pitch a specific article or should I send a general query letter pitching my proposed column?

I have absolutely NO experience sending query letters and I do not want to come of as inexperienced. The individuals that are publishing this paper have a long track record in the newspaper industry and have won numerous awards. I think it would be a huge opportunity to get to work with them in terms or learning and perhaps bringing in some regular income.

Thanks in advance for any direction you may be able to provide.


Hi AN,

The post I did on writing articles for syndication will give you some feel for how columns work in publications.

As I state there I would definitely propose a column and not an article – with at least 6 titles and two samples in the case of a monthly – 12 titles or ideas would be even better.

I’m not sure which format you’re talking about (How to Write a Query is a good overview), but since I’m suggesting titles the format I would use would be something like:

I like what you’re doing with your monthly newspaper and would like to contribute a column. Attached are two sample articles and 12 titles.

I can be reached at xxx xxx xxxx; I’ll give you a call next week.

Refer to your website as a sample even if the column you’re proposing has nothing to do with the writing on your site. Or use your letterhead showing your site if you’ve got some.

Don’t worry about sounding inexperienced – editors don’t care about that, truly. If your writing is solid and if your idea is a good one for the purposes of the paper, you may get hired.

You say you hope to create monthly income. Chances are a new paper is likely to pay very little if anything. Think $10-$50 a month. If, on the other hand, the column is promoting your business, which can work as long as you offer good info and keep the promo to a minimum, you probably can’t expect any pay.

Good luck and let us know what happens.

Do you have a question about freelance writing? Contact me with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll do my best to get it answered for you.

Tell us about your first query or join our FiveBuckForum and discuss the whole query process.


Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by María Cabello

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Great advice on not worrying if you sound inexperienced, or not having definitive clips. I think these are a couple of reasons why many new writers don’t even get off the ground – they stay frozen in fear of rejection due to inexperience at contacting editors, and having no clips to share. You’re so right that if your writing is sound enough, someone is eventually going to snap you up – even if it means selling yourself for a low fee, or even free, for a first gig to get that first clip. Again, the old “persistence” rearing its head.
    Nicky Parry recently posted..Check Your SkinMy Profile

    • Anne

      Thanks Nicky… glad you like the blog and glad you comment here.

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