There are over 7,000 magazines published in the United States. You can learn to write successful magazine queries by following these ten guidelines.
Keep in mind that a query is a marketing piece. It’s designed to sell your idea to an editor. It should be short – 250 words is considered the limit. Don’t bother with anything about you or your idea that isn’t directly selling the article.
Read the magazine
It may seem obvious, but if you don’t read, actually study, the magazine you’re unlikely to write successful magazine queries. Every publication has its own audience, and its own voice – even those that look suspiciously alike.
You can read at home or at the library. Note the length of the articles. Study the masthead which will often tell you which editor to submit to.
Study the ads
The ads in magazines tell you a lot about the reader. Fashion magazines tend to have ads that fit in the world of fashion – the ads give you great clues about the income of the audience. The same thing is true of gardening, dating, gun and all other magazines that carry ads.
Read and use guidelines
Find the magazine’s website. This is where you’re most likely to find any guidelines. Following guidelines exactly can make the difference between successful magazine queries and those that flops.
Name the editor if you can
Particularly in larger magazines, you may be able to find the editor you’re targeting on the website or through the masthead. You can also call and ask which editor handles “an article on plastics in the ocean” or whatever. Sometimes you’ll even be put through to them – so be prepared to pitch over the phone.
If you can’t find the right editor, don’t sweat it too much. It’s not a requirement.
Hone your idea
Chances are your idea didn’t arrive fully formed; it needs honing. Chew on it. Think about the audience and exactly what you want them to know and/or do.
For example, “an article on plastics in the ocean” might work on a phone call, but it’s not nearly specific enough for a query. “3 Ways to Remove the Pacific Gyre” could be aimed at a magazine about the ocean where people could be expected to know about the Pacific Gyre and care. “Is ocean plastic ruining your seafood?” addresses the same general topic in a whole different way.
Start with the headline
I like to start the letter with a centered headline, right below the Dear Editor. It demonstrates the idea and it’s fitness for the publication. Then sum up what you’re going to say.
Explain how it fits the publication
It’s important to tell the editor why you think your article will fit in her magazine. Keep it simple – something like “you’re readers will be excited realizing there are at least three ways we can remove plastic from the ocean” or, in the other case, “Your readers need to know which fish are plastic free.”
Briefly explain when/how you’ll deliver it
State this simply: I’ll deliver the manuscript electronically two weeks after assignment.
Briefly explain why you’re the best person to write it
You’re selling yourself here in a sentence or two. If I were writing the above article on food I might say “I’ve been a hobby cook for years and I know how important food safety is to families.”
Submit as directed
Typically queries are submitted by email, print copies, or some up-load method. You need to discover what’s preferred and submit that way. The website may explain or you might have to call and ask – yes, you could combine this call with asking about the write editor.
What do you think? Are you writing queries? Tell us about them.
Write well and often,
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