How to Write a Query Letter and Get Your Article Published

How do you get an article published in a magazine? By learning how to write a query letter to a magazine editor, of course! That’s your first step – because without an excellent pitch, you’ll never sell your articles. Here’s what one beginning freelance magazine writer says:

freelance writing pay rates“I have a brilliant idea for an article, and I believe it’s perfect for the publication I have in mind,” says Newbie Magazine Writer on 11 Types of Magazine Articles That Editors Love to Publish. “I just don’t know how to write a query letter to a magazine. Can you help me by giving me a formula or structure on how to pitch my idea to the editor? I haven’t done much research or reading, but I found this article on the different types of magazine articles helpful. Thank you for any direction you can offer!”

The following tips are from a great “Query Letter Clinic” in Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition 2017: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published; I’ve also included a sample of a strong nonfiction magazine query letter. But, the most important thing to remember is that the only way to really learn how to write a query letter to a magazine editor is to practice, practice, and practice some more. And get comfortable with rejection! 





“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.” – Henry David Thoreau.

It’s the same with writing query letters! I’ve realized dozens of fabulous ideas for articles while I’m running through the forest with my dogs…and then I let them get cold because I don’t write them down. Then they’re dead. Useless. Don’t “postpone the recording of your thoughts”, fellow scribes. Write now, while the heat is alive in you.

How to Write a Query Letter to a Magazine

“The query letter is often the most important piece of the publishing puzzle,” say the experts in Writer’s Market. “In many cases, it determines whether an editor or agent will even read your manuscript.”

So…

1. Know why you’re writing the query letter

What’s the purpose of querying a magazine? To find out of the editor is interested, willing, or able to publish your article. Before you send in your article, proposal, or synopsis, you must first submit a query letter. The goal of your query letter is to present an article idea – or a fully written article – in a clear and concise manner. The query letter’s job is to entice the magazine editor to assign the article outright, or at the very least ask to see the full article.

A query letter is usually less than one page in length. You must demonstrate that you know not only what the article is about, but that you’re knowledgeable about the magazine or publication you’re querying. Whether your query letter is intended for a well-known national magazine like the New Yorker or a smaller more specialized niche publication like Poets and Writers, you should address why your proposed article is a perfect fit for the magazine.

Since your goal is to sell your article or manuscript, you need to be enthusiastic (but don’t use too many exclamation marks!!!!! like I do). Focus on being persuasive, professional, and realistic.

2. Get specific immediately

How to Write a Query Letter to a Magazine

How to Write a Query Letter to a Magazine

“The most effective query letters get into the specifics from the very first line,” say the freelance writing experts in Writer’s Market. “It’s important to remember that the query letter is a call to action, not a listing of features and benefits.”

To learn how I got my first article published in the print edition of Reader’s Digest magazine, read Sample of a Successful Query Letter to Reader’s Digest.

3. Include some biographical information about yourself

Here’s what I say at the end of my query letters to magazines I’ve never written for before: “I’m a published writer; visit The Adventurous Writer  for links to my most recent articles. My credits include MSN HealthWoman’s Day, Health, Reader’s Digest, Glow, alive and sometimes More.

Show your personality and voice in your query, but don’t go overboard by using fancy colorful fonts or visuals. When you’re writing a query letter to a magazine, use a normal font and typeface (such as Times New Roman, 12 point), address a specific editor (such as the managing editor or assigning editor), and limit your query letter to one page. Include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and website.

4. Don’t mention money in your query letter

Your goal is to get paid at least $1 per word (okay, that’s my goal) – but don’t mention money in your query letter. The experts in Writer’s Market say, “This step comes after an editor has agreed to take on your article or book. Besides making an unprofessional impression on an editor, it can also work to your disadvantage in negotiating your fee. If you ask for too much, an editor may not even contact you to see if a lower rate might work. If you ask for too little, you may start an editorial relationship where you are making far less than the normal rate.”






How Freelance Writing Pay Rates – Newspaper and Magazine Articles to find out how much magazines and other publications pay freelance writers.

5. Follow the “submission guidelines for writers” on the magazine’s website

One of the best ways to get rejected by a magazine editor and lose a potential writing assignment is by not researching the market you’re querying. Editors know exactly what they want. If you, as a potential freelance writer, mention an inappropriate word count or subject idea then you give the editor an opportunity to reject your query.

Most (I daresay all) publications have writers’ guidelines to help freelancers tailor their pitches properly. Following their guidelines is a crucial tip on how to write a query letter to a magazine. Don’t think that being different, cute, or outrageously creative will help you get published in the magazine! Difference, cute, and outrageously creative article pitches backfire.

Learn as much as you can about he “rules” of writing query letters for magazine articles; for more info, read Pitching Your Freelance Article to Magazines.

6. Follow up a few weeks after sending your query letter to the magazine

writing query letters

How to Write Query Letters for Magazine Articles

Okay, I’m the worst writer in the world for following up with editors after pitching my article ideas.

I never contact an editor after emailing a query letter – though I have heard that writers get assignments when they do! The editors in Writer’s Market recommend following up after the magazine’s response time has lapsed. “Then, send a short and polite e-mail describing the original query sent, the date it was sent, and asking if they received it or made a decision regarding its fate.”

“The importance of remaining polite and businesslike when following up cannot be stressed enough,” say these writers. “Making a bad impression on an editor can often have a ripple effect because that editor may share his or her bad experience with other editors at the magazine or publishing company.”

Here’s a made-up example of a magazine query letter to Writer’s Digest:

Editor’s Name

Editor’s Address

Dear Editor (insert real name here),

There are 87 varieties of freelance writers grown in the United States, but there’s only one farm producing 12 of these. This farm is called the Brilliant Creative Nonfiction Writers Corporation.

Located in the heart of California, this company spent the past decade providing great organic crops of freelance writers at a competitive (but not too cheap) price. Shockingly, the organic nature of the crops helped the nonfiction writers grow into the ninth leading organic farming operation in the country. Along the way, they developed the most unique organic offering of creative nonfiction writers in North America.

As a seasoned writer with access to William S. Brilliantwriter, the founder and president of the Brilliant Creative Nonfiction Writers Corporation, I propose writing a profile piece on Brilliantwriter for your Organic Writers department. After years of reading this riveting column, I believe the time has come to coverthe Brilliant Creative Nonfiction Writers Corporation’s rise in the organic writers’ farming industry.

The piece would run in the normal 800-1,200 word range, with photographs available of Brilliantwriter and the company’s operation.

I’ve been published in Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest, Wannabee Writers, and in several newspapers.

Thank you for your consideration of this article. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Your Name,

Address, E-Mail

And that, fellow scribes, is how to write a query letter to a magazine editor. What do you think of that query? I think it’s short, sweet, succinct. Professional yet casual.

Help Writing Query Letters to Magazine Editors

query letter writingTo learn how to write a query letter to a magazine, read books such as How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool. Writing strong query letters that convince editors to hire you is both an art and a craft – and it takes a lot of practice. Learn as much about the business of freelance writing as you can.

One of the best sources of information on freelance writing for magazines are the Writers Market books — get the most current Writer’s Market. I learned more from reading books about writing than by reading writing blogs and websites because the information is more concise, accurate, and targeted. Plus, many writers don’t read books and thus don’t get the information that can only be found in books. 

For more magazine writing tips, read How Do You Get Paid for an Article After the Editor Leaves?

Fellow scribes, what have I missed? If you have any questions or tips on writing query letters for magazine articles, please comment below…

xo



8 Responses

  1. Laurie says:

    Dear Priya,

    Thank you for your offer, but I will have to pass. I don’t accept guest posts on my blogs, and I think you need more English writing practice.

    I admire your courage and desire to write!

    You inspired me to write this article:

    Before You Search for Online Writing Jobs – Help for ESL Writers
    http://www.theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/online-writing-jobs-esl-english-second-language-writers/

    I wish you all the best as you move forward in your writing career.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  2. Ms, Priya Samir says:

    Hi,

    I am Ms, Priya Samir,

    I am really proud to have visited your website “http://www.theadventurouswriter.com” and I want to contribute to your guest article be suggested Blog. My articles will be about ‘how to find online writing jobs for ESL writers’ and would have all the trends, stats, and expert opinions and that would be 700 words+ long. Suggest me about any kinds of article your own thinking. I will try to write your thinking articles. ‍

    I can assure that my article will be unique and you will not have to face any plagiarism issues with that.
    I need one link to my website to be placed with the article contribution. Hope I will get the
    opportunity to write for your website and expecting a positive response soon from you.

    Best wishes,

    Priya Samir
    Blog writer

  3. Warren T. Young says:

    I’ve sent this letter to three or four agencies I thought might advise me on where I might send the manuscript to. But so far no reply. All but one bounced or the email I sent was no longer in existence.
    I’ve had quite a few articles run in Breakthrough Magazine on the subjects of taxidermy and how-to pieces on carving native fish species. I’ve had a few newspaper commentaries and another article published once in Outdoor Canada. I’ve written several for the old Outdoor Alberta Magazine and one book (my 1st) entitled Through The Eyes Of Eagles. But I’m having trouble trying to sell an Indian story to either a magazine or a book publisher. (It’s 7897 Words) An editor in Calgary accepted it and also wanted to run it in the electronic media. But I withdrew because I thought it was worth something. Herewith is copy/outline of the letter I have sent as a query in an effort to submit my Indian story. May I ask what you think I might be doing wrong?

    The Editor:
    I’m hoping to find an appropriate magazine editor that can find a window of time to have a look at my manuscript. It’s clean, it’s typed in New Times Roman, double spaced and it consists of 7,897 Words. The title is: High Country Confrontation.

    It’s based on the culture of our native aboriginal people prior to any European settlement in North America. The setting is here in Alberta close to the Rocky Mountains.

    Practically all of the southern half of the province of Alberta and a large part of Montana was home to the Blackfoot indian people. It was not uncommon for young native men to venture off on their own to test their skill and nerve in the sometimes hostile environment in which they inhabited.

    This story takes the reader into the wilderness with the youngster as he leaves camp and ventures off on his own. During his daring adventure, he meets up with another youth motivated by the same compulsion from a different tribe friendly toward the Blackfoot. Together they become very good friends and share the experience of freedom and of being on their own. They make many improvisations along the way. Their experience teaches them stealth and endurance and essentially equips them for what they will be confronted with before they return to their people. Their experience involves them in having to face a traditional enemy. There are one or two dispatches of the war-like individuals who threaten them. Finally they return home to the applaud of their parents…

    I would appreciate any editor who could give me a hint as to where I can find the right agency that might find this story interesting for their readers. I also have about thirty finished manuscripts on wildlife – hunting & fishing etc.

    Sincerely:

    Warren Young

    [email protected]

  4. Laurie says:

    Hello T A,

    Congratulations on your breaking into the world of online writing! It sounds like you’re well on your way.

    I’m most comfortable mentioning money when I know the editor wants me to write the article. So, if an editor emailed me an article suggestion, I’d accept enthusiastically, and ask what their pay rates are. I’d be honest and say that I would love to write this article, but need to be compensated for my time. If I hadn’t been paid by this editor before, I’d suggest an amount I think is fair (the fee depends on number of words, amount of research, etc).

    The problem with writing for free is that it’s difficult to get them to pay you. I think writing for free is a great way to break into freelancing, but after you prove yourself as a writer, you need to start setting your rates and asking confidently to be paid. How long it takes to prove yourself as a writer depends on your writing skills, as well as professional, and dependable you are.

    There are thousands of crappy writers who will write for free (and who can’t get published even when they write for free) — and it is surprisingly easy for good writers to set themselves apart and get paid for writing.

    I hope this helps – and encourage you to read lots of books about freelance writing. I find them more helpful than websites.

    All good things,
    Laurie

  5. T A Donovan says:

    This is great information that I could have used two months ago, if I’d bothered to look. I sent an unsolicited article to a major online journal that averages almost six million views a month. When the article got picked up forty-eight hours later–quite unexpectedly, I might add, I hadn’t negotiated a contract and wasn’t paid. Because I really didn’t know what I was doing and had no publishing creds or experience, when considering the exposure and positive relationships it’s helped me build, it was well worth it. But as I start down the treacherous road of building a freelance career out of basically nothing but a crazy impulse, I regret that I don’t have any formal knowledge regarding the process of interacting with editors and actually making money at this writing thing. Your website has been an enormous help in remedying that, but I still have a major question. The editor that I’ve established this great relationship with queried me with an article suggestion after a recent submission he didn’t accept. I’m very interested in writing the article for him, but feel I ought to get paid this time. Your article never really mentions when money is mentioned, or the proper etiquette therein. Any advice for an up-and-coming blogger?

  1. October 16, 2009

    […] How to Write Query Letters for Magazine Articles, Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen for Quips and Tips […]

  2. December 2, 2009

    […] How to Write Query Letters for Magazines [The Adventurous Writer] […]

  3. May 7, 2010

    […] The query letter.  Looking to write for magazines?  Perfect the art of the perfect query letter.  You don’t need to write an entire article before you sell it.  First, come up with a great […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *