Written by Sarah Yoon
Once you’ve got a few article ideas matched up to magazines, it’s time to write some query letters and hopefully get a few clips for the resume.
What are Query Letters?
Query letters can be intimidating. They are writing samples, sales pitches, and resumes all in one short page. It only takes a few sentences to hook an editor. Conversely, it only takes an incorrect prefix or misspelled name to deter an editor. To show that you are serious about being published, always check the publisher’s website for submission specifics. Know which editor you’re writing to and make it clear that you know the magazine well enough to write for it. Which department or feature will you write? How long will the article be? Does it fit a specific season? Often magazines plan months in advance; if you want to write a Christmas article, don’t wait until December to pitch it.
How to Write a Query
Each query is about a page long and consists of an article summary, which is similar to an article lead. It introduces the topic and draws the reader’s interest. The second paragraph gives specifics: title, word count, department, etc. And the third paragraph is the resume section, where you briefly specify why you’re the person for the job. Any education or work experience that is pertinent can be listed. Throughout the query, being succinct and polite is key. For more specifics, the Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest give examples for content and format that will help you write the best query that you can.
Perfect the Art
After querying, you will get rejections, non-responses, and hopefully article assignments. Sift through your queries and critiques, learning from each rejected query. Why didn’t it succeed? Sometimes your pitch isn’t even the problem. Editors pass over queries for numerous reasons—it doesn’t match the next issue’s theme or they already have enough freelancers for the moment. Writers can go crazy trying to figure out exactly why they didn’t snag an assignment, so please keep calm and just keep studying the tricks of the trade. Just as we learn from rejections, we also learn from successes.
Build Professional Relationships
Every time you interact with editors, you can build your reputation as a responsible and respectful writer. If you get to write for a magazine, be mindful of deadlines. Editors are often overworked, so respect their time by being prompt and delivering quality work. The less editing they have to do, the more likely that they’ll want to hire you again. Follow up with thank you emails and express interest in writing for them again. Maybe even pitch another idea. As I mentioned in Part 1, everyone that you work with has the potential of being a helpful connection.
Have any article ideas brewing? Read the next article in the series on growing professionally and easing the journey by dealing with critique.