Writing my first query letter has been a real experience! Besides enjoying the process, I’ve learned a lot about the approach needed to capture an editor’s attention and get enough interest to get the go-ahead. After all, if the editor says no, there is zero chance of selling the article. You have to get a “yes”!
Let’s review the key points of a query letter. It’s important to accomplish these things when you construct it:
- Address the letter to the right person. Don’t just use “Dear Editor” or “Dear Sir or Madam”. Find out who should get your letter.
- Submit the letter in the correct format (email, snail mail, etc.). Check with the publication to be sure you are sending your letter in the way that they want.
- Zero in on the subject in the first paragraph. If you can’t sell the idea or interest the editor with the first paragraph (two sentences), you might not get any farther.
- Write amplifying information in the next paragraphs. Continue to build interest.
- Tell the editor why you are the person to write the article. Do you have special access to people or places? Do you have years of experience and insight to share?
- List any writing experience you have and any published work. If you haven’t yet published anything, just don’t say anything.
- Ask the editor if they have anything you should know (before you set off to write the article). They will sometimes reply back with a list of things they want to see in the article.
- Don’t forget to plan for photos and tell the editor that you will provide photos for them to choose from after your return.
- If you mailed the query letter, mention the self-addressed, stamped envelope you have included for a reply. Not necessary if email was used.
- State when you will plan to visit the subject of the article and tell the editor when you can have the piece back to him. Three weeks after returning from the trip should be about right.
- Make some remark about how you will be looking for their response.
- Close the query letter with your name. Add sincerely, yours truly or regards if you wish.
There is no right answer when it comes to a query letter. However, the basic format above should get you close to the ideal format and help you to construct an effective letter of query. Remember, you don’t write the article until you are able to get an editor to give you the “go ahead”. That way, you can write a great article, submit it and get paid. That’s what I’m out to do. I’m almost finished with my first query letter. I’ll share it in a future post.
You can Google “query letter” and see if you can find some examples. Gordon Burgett has some excellent query letters available on his website. They are actual letters that have been used successfully by other authors. There are also letters written by Gordon as well as some cover letter examples. Click here to get your own copy. I learned a lot by following his examples and reading his book, The Travel Writer’s Guide.
Are you making progress with your writing? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment!