Hot Topic: Writing Freelance Query Letters

What’s the secret to writing for magazines, journals, and newspapers? A well written query letter! A query is a one page proposal of your article idea, sent to the appropriate editor of the publication you are targeting. Most queries are sent through email (unless otherwise specified by the publication) and are written according to a specific formula. It is important to do your research before hitting “send”. Read a few back copies of your target publication to get a feel for the style and subject matter (and word counts!). Make sure your idea would be of interest to the readership (tip: pay attention to the advertisements to get clues as to who’s buying the publication). Pay extra attention to your spelling/grammar/punctuation. The editor will be judging the quality of your writing based on the query (you can also send a file attachment with relevant samples of your writing). The exact layout of the formula is flexible, but make sure you keep all points in mind as you write your query. Remember, you’re not just selling your idea, you’re selling yourself as the right person to write it!  

Query formula: 

 First grab the editor with a snappy first sentence, then answer the following questions: 

1- Uniqueness: What is different, enticing, and new about your idea? 

2- Timeliness: What makes your idea current, trendy, newsworthy? 

 3- Slant: What is your interesting angle on the story? 

4- Suitability for publication: what is the appeal to the readership? Why this mag/paper? What is the format (profile, how-to, personal essay) and word count you are proposing? 

5- Qualifications: What qualifies you to write the piece (special connections, personal experiences)? This is where you list where you’ve been published before. If you’ve never been published, focus on how your experience makes you the one person who can write this piece and include sample writings as an attachment for the editor to review.  

Your query letter should be able to answer all the following questions:

Why is the subject special?

 Why should it be reported now?

How do I view it?

Why should this mag/paper cover it?

Why should I be assigned the article? 

I would definitely recommend reading up on freelance writing, just to get more of a feel for the business and what editors are looking for. 

Good luck!!

Sample

Dear Mr. John Doe,

What can be done to alleviate these symptoms?
Golf-O-Max is certainly one option, or you can go to Golf Town or Chuck Brown and get your swing analyzed. You can even buy your own launch monitor to hook up to your computer, and there’s always Tiger Woods 2007 for your video game system.

Still listless and withdrawn?

I put my industrial design background to work when lack of golf began threatening my marriage. My husband missed the risk, the danger factor, of real time golf. For those who cringe at the thought of a mulligan button, let me introduce you to do-it-yourself training aids. There’s the home made weighted club, engineered with pennies and plastic tubing, or the “Inside Approach” made entirely out of wrapping paper tubes. And, if you’re willing to put it all on the line for the game you love, there’s the fully functional apartment kitchen driving range. Who cares if the side effects can (and do!) include broken windows, a doorframe resembling the aftermath of a rabid beaver attack, and floor and ceiling divots no amount of seed mix can fix!

I propose a approx. 800word article that outlines ways Ottawa golfers can get their fix in March. I will include locations, pricing, and services for the “soft” solutions proposed in paragraph two, as well as instructions for brave do-it-yourselfers. The article will be humorous, but informative, and full of hilarious anecdotes from my near eviction.

I am an Ottawa freelance writer who has no shame taking her golf clubs on the bus, not just to Pineview, but all the way to Myrtle Beach! I have already written for the Citizen’s Style Weekly and am looking to share my golf expertise with your Sports readers.

Very Best Wishes,

Cymbria Wood

We Ottawa golfers are easy to spot during these last few weeks of winter. Whether in elevators, business meetings, or hibernating in the simulators at Golf Town, we all have the same tortured, desperate look. Our eyes are glassy, our bodies limp. Even the collars of our Arnold Palmer polos droop.
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3 Responses to Hot Topic: Writing Freelance Query Letters

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