How To Write a Query or Pitch Letter

stack of newspapers
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The point of your query letter is to sell an article or an idea for an article. This is the format and medium in which magazines, newspapers and book editors expect to be approached.

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Time Required: One Hour

Here's How to Write a Query

  1. Use standard header information. Address your letter directly to the editor in charge of queries and manuscripts. Do your homework, and avoid sending queries and pitches blindly.
  2. Open with a statement that makes the editor want to keep reading. This could either be a brief statement about your particular qualifications for this article, or an attention-grabbing introduction to the idea itself.
  3. Spend more time detailing your idea. This is the area to make the sale convincing. Why does the editor care about this? Is it really timely? Does it fit in perfectly with the publication's mission? Will it hook her readers? Often this is a good place to use quotes, anecdotes or samples from your proposed article.
  4. Convince the editor to hire you. If you haven't done this above, convince the editor that you are the most qualified writer for this angle. Perhaps you've got an inside scoop. Maybe your subject has promised you, in particular, the first interview. This would also be the place to mention past credits or significant education in the subject. Whatever it is that makes you the best person to write this article, here is where you sell it.
  5. Never make the editor work harder. Be sure to close with your contact information highly visible. In addition make sure the editor knows exactly where he/she can follow up with you, the writer. Do you have any clips, or perhaps a website? Don't make them look- --put it right out in plain sight!

Tips for Writing a Query Letter

Beginning freelancers can aim at local markets. Most city and regional publications are likely to use freelancers and new writers. This will also help you to build up your clips before approaching the big boys.

What You Need to Write a Query Letter or Pitch

  • Name and address of the submissions editor
  • Word processing program
  • A shining idea that no sane editor would ever pass up