Dear Sir or Madam, Here is my wonderfully written article about hair salons which I am just certain you will want to print in your typewriter repair magazine. Feel free to mail my check to, 123 Main Street, Smalltown USA 12345.
How’s that for a query letter? I wish it weren’t true but when I was editing my magazine I received queries like that or queries for articles that showed the submitter had obviously never even heard of the magazine and was simply blind-sending query letters to any and every magazine he found. I would “forgive” people who wrote to “Dear Mr. Hess…” Kind of. I mean if they’d looked at the website or even read one issue they would have seen my photo and I believe I look like a woman.
READ the magazine. If you’re writing an article about fly fishing, don’t send it to a writer’s magazine or a tech magazine. Common sense dictates you’d send it to a fly fishing magazine or a sports mag, right? But alas, common sense doesn’t always seem to rule the wanna-be-published writer.
Here are some things a query letter can do for you:
- Proves to an editor that you are qualified to write the piece you propose
- Shows the editor, at a glance, that you can actually string together two sentences and use proper grammar
Regardless of whether the market you are targeting wants hard copy queries and submissions or will accept submissions via email, you still want to be professional in all of your dealings with an editor, from finding out his or her name to knowing what they publish.
Rule #2 know the market.
- As mentioned above, know the market you are targeting and target appropriately
- Read the magazine, order a sample copy
- Get the writer’s guidelines
- Know which editor to target your query to — larger magazines have editors for different departments
Rule #3 be professional
- Even in an email, use a professional format — date, editor’s name, address, etc.
- No spelling or grammar errors
- If you aren’t sure of the gender of the editor: Chris Smith, don’t use Mr. or Mrs. simply use Chris Smith.
- Single space the letter (not double spaced like your article submission should be)
- Include all of your contact information: name, address, email, telephone number
- Single-space your paragraphs and double-space between paragraphs.
- Include an SASE if you’re mailing a hard copy
- NOTE: If your submission is not accepted, don’t be unprofessional about it and demand to know why. It is all right to ask if there is something you could do to enhance your chances in the future, but don’t be pissy.
Rule #4 grab the editor’s attention.
- Introduce your article in the first paragraph of your query
- Make it interesting, by using a “hook” in your query
- Use a legible font
- Make the query specific. Don’t say, “I’d like to write an article about herb gardening.” Say instead, “I have an idea of an article on how to grow basil and chives in a most unique manner suited for city dwellers.”
- Keep it short — one page max for your query letter
- Let the editor know the length of the piece and whether it will have photos
Rule #5 be persuasive
- If you have writing samples, include them or if they are online, include links
- If you have credentials that show why you’re the best writer for the piece, let the editor know that
- If you don’t have credentials for the topic about which you’re querying then wow the editor with a query that shows you know your stuff
Whew, this is just a short list of what to do in your query letter.
Bottom line, your query letter is your job interview with a potential employer (the editor). Sometimes, writing query letter can seem to take as long as writing a synopsis for a novel and maybe it should. You have one page and a few lines of text to grab the attention of the editor to whom you’ve sent your article idea, take time to make it shine.
Robbi Hess is an award-winning author who creates content for her clients, in a variety of industries. If you know you need to blog, but can’t find the time, reach out to her for a Content Strategy Session. Find her at All Words Matter or on RobbiHess.com
This is post 5 of 12 in a 12 blog post challenged issued by Blogging Badass Anne McAuley Lopez