Query, Pitch or Letter of Introduction?

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Hi. I'm just getting started as a freelance writer, and I am having some trouble with the whole cover letter versus query letter thing. I've read through your site, but I'm not sure which letter is appropriate for which outlet. For example, when do I send a cover letter along with a query? If I'm sending magazine queries, do I send a cover letter with them, or do I combine the two? If I combine them, what's the balance? Also, I found the article about letters of introduction. What's that!? Please help. I'm ready to get started!

Ok, the good news is that you've touched on all three of the different kinds of letters you'll need to be able to master in order to be a well-rounded writer (and one that doesn't have all his eggs in one basket- always good for your bank account!). So, let's just clarify what each is, and what it's appropriate for.

  1. Pitch letters/query letters are written to sell ideas to magazines and sometimes newsletters. Be sure to read the articles linked above, BUT, in short, a pitch letter outlines the meat of your story idea in a way that hooks the editor, and includes just enough about you as a writer to convince the editor that you're IT. YOU'RE the writer for this idea.
  2. A cover letter is written in response to a posted writing job. It's very similar to a regular cover letter, the sort that you'd use to apply to regular jobs in a traditional job search. It highlights why you would be the ideal freelance writer for that particular posted project/writing job.
  3. A letter of introduction is probably the one that you'll use least often (unless your niche is trade magazines). The LOI is sent to magazines that need a cadre of writers on hand to assign stories to. Do you see the difference here? The editor knows the story already- the writer doesn't pitch it. Instead, the editor matches the story to one of his (her) pre-qualified writers. In order to be one of those writers, you introduce yourself with the LOI. It basically outlines your qualifications for that particular publication. This practice is most common with trade magazines, although the situation is not entirely unheard of with other publications.

Therefore, no. You don't really send more than one of these types of letters. But if you're pitching a magazine, you briefly tell them why you are qualified to write that particular story. If you are sending an LOI, you outline your experience in relation to that publication. And if you are applying for a posted writing job, you explain your qualifications in relation to that particular job.