Now that you’ve got an article idea, how do you
go about asking an editor if he/she is interested in buying it? The answer: a query letter.
Next question: how do you write a query letter?
Maybe the following will help:
The first thing a query letter must be is professional.
It must reflect that you have done this before, even if you haven’t. It should be accompanied by an SASE, is error-free
and is addressed to the right editor. (You can find out the proper editor in any number of ways, not the least of which is
a phone call to the magazine. For many magazines, email is acceptable. Read the writers' guidelines.)
The idea must be fresh and new, something that has
not been done before (or at least a different slant from what is common knowledge; most magazines also have an agenda) and
is provocative, something that pulls you in, makes you curious. “You” in this sense is the reading audience and the editor
Of course the presentation should be creative and somewhat
offbeat, something you don’t usually find in a story in this magazine. Your idea should be customized to this magazine
and only this one For instance, I once did an article for a magazine for massage therapists about fibromyalgia and I had to
include the fact that massage is beneficial for that condition.
It wouldn’t hurt to present more than one way
the idea could be presented. This gives the editor the idea that you are open to new ideas and if your idea isn’t suitable,
you would be amenable to doing it another way.
Let the editor know
you’re reliable. If you’ve been published elsewhere, say so; if not, give evidence of your reliability in other
ways, such as you’ve been on the same job 10 years and never missed a day except for vacations and that you have won
awards for new project ideas and follow-through.
Conclude with a convincing sentence that you’re
the only person who can do this particular story and why.
Ways to kill your chances:
Be too wordy; ramble, make the letter over one and
a half pages.
Leave the idea half-formed on the page.
Be too cocky, too presumptuous.
Give a lame reason for doing this story; perhaps
you’ve always wanted to write and this editor would be doing you a big favor by buying your story.
Don’t offer the article on speculation, or “on-spec” as it’s called.
Professionals don’t do that.
Don’t call the editor multiple times after
the submission to see if he’s made a decision on your article yet.
Don’t mention faults in your story; if they’re
there, the editor will find them.
If you still have questions, go to www.google.com and see what you can find out about your question. Remember when you're searching: use key words,not a whole question. And
of course, if I can help, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't check my mail every day so go to my guestbook on the Introduction page and write a note to check my email.