WRITING A GOOD ARTICLE QUERY

WRITING A GOOD ARTICLE QUERY

Most magazine editors prefer authors send them a query letter
rather than the entire article. This helps minimize the size of
the unsolicited submissions stack towering over their desks, and
allows them to quickly judge if an idea is right for their
publication. Some editors will buy an article on the strength of
the query alone, especially if the author is previously
published. So, while you can send out queries before you
actually write the piece, it’s essential that you complete your
research and have a good idea of the direction your article will
take before committing to it in the query letter. Also, be sure
you can finish the article quickly if the editor writes back and
asks to see the whole piece. If you’ve never written a magazine
article before, I suggest you do so before sending out queries,
just to be sure you can deliver what you promise.

Like your article, the query letter should be lively, well-
organized, and entertaining. Open with a strong sentence that
sets the tone for your article–an interesting fact about your
subject, a question you intend to answer, or a line of dialog
from someone you interviewed. Complete the paragraph by
presenting the five basic facts about your topic: who, what,
when, where and why. Sprinkle in a few statistics if you have
them, and don’t forget to list the projected word length. Your
second paragraph introduces the questions you intend to answer
in the article, and the slant you’ll take on the subject. This
is your opportunity to show the editor why your article is
unique. If you have unusual information or have interviewed
experts, include that in this paragraph.

The third paragraph states the market for this topic. Show
you’ve done your research and explain why your article would
appeal to the magazine’s readership. You should know that your
particular slant on the topic hasn’t been done before (search
magazine databases at the library under subject headings), so
tell the editor of your findings.

Your final paragraph includes any pertinent information about
yourself. List previous writing credits, areas of expertise that
are related to your article, writing organizations to which you
belong. Anything that gives you credibility as an author should
be included. If you have no relevant experience, skip this
paragraph.

Some magazines request an annotated bibliography of resources
used in writing the article. This can be attached on a second
sheet of paper. Be sure your letter also includes your full
address, phone number, and email. Submit with a self-addressed,
stamped envelope for the editor’s reply.

It’s best to query one magazine at a time unless you are
slanting the article differently for different publications. If
two magazines request the complete work, send to your preferred
market first. If they buy the piece, be sure you retain the
appropriate rights to write about the same subject for a
different market before submitting a new article elsewhere.

Good Luck!

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