How to write an effective query letter

How to write an effective query letter
By: Halee Andrews

Note: This guide is for those who are wanting to send in news stories to online publications.  This is not a guide for those who are wanting to publish a book.  A good guide for that can be read here

So, you’ve got your story written, edited, and polished.  You’ve found a target audience, a target publication, and you have done the research on that publication’s submission guidelines.  You learn that you have to write a query letter but have no idea where to start.  What the heck is a query letter anyways?

A query letter is the letter that is going to help get your work published.  It’s more of a sales pitch really.  In the letter you are going to sell your story to the editor.  You’re going to get them excited and interested in you and your work.  You’re going to put a lot of thought and creativity in this letter to show you care about your story.

These days, online publications don’t want to see lengthy query letters in their inbox.  There’s just not enough time.  Instead, many sites recommend sending in short query letters that are one page or less.  Sites like the LA Times, for example, will clarify the submission guidelines and length of the query letter so be sure to check for specifics.  The LA Times states: “The best approach submitting a story is to write a short query letter outlining the proposed piece, including a resume or description of the writer’s experience.” This is the approach we are going to use in this guide.  It is simple yet very effective in getting published.

You’re going to write three short paragraphs.  In the first paragraph, you’re going to open with something that lets the publication know that you’ve read the submission guidelines. Then, you will introduce your work and perhaps something special about your work or why you decided to write it.

For example:

According to your website, you are currently accepting non-fiction publications of all kinds.  With that said, I am happy to present to you one of my latest feature stories: The Meaning of Life. This feature story was written as part of my COM-430 course and received positive acclaim from my professor, Addy McMillian.

The second paragraph will give the editor a little more information about your work.  You’ll include an estimated word count and give the editor a clear idea about what your story will provide the audience.

For example:

Have you ever pondered the meaning of life or why we exist?  My story, The Meaning of Life, is a short feature story of about 600 words and presents to the reader answers to some of the biggest questions about our purpose here on earth.

The third paragraph is where you get to brag about yourself.  Tell the editor if you have any degrees, have been presented special awards that relate to your story’s topic, and if you’ve been published in the past.

For example:

I am a senior at Southern New Hampshire University and I will graduate this fall with a creative writing degree.  In 2015, I served as an editor for SNHU’s student newspaper, The Manatee.  In addition, I have written for and have been published by numerous online publications, businesses and blogs.

And lastly, you’ll finish out with a nice line saying how much you look forward to hearing back from them.  Below you will find a mock letter that I put together for this article that you may use to help create your own letter:

June 25, 2017

 

Halee Andrews
hdandrewsblog@gmail.com

Lost Angeles Times
magazine@latimes.com

Dear Editor,

According to your website, you are currently accepting non-fiction publications of all types and sizes.  With that said, I am happy to present to you one of my latest feature stories: The Meaning of Life.  This feature story was written as part of my COM-435 course and received positive acclaim from my professor, Addy McMillian.

Have you ever pondered the meaning of life or why we exist?  My story, The Meaning of Life, is a short feature story of about 600 words and presents to the reader answers to some of the biggest questions about our purpose here on earth.

I am a senior at Southern New Hampshire University and I will graduate this fall with a creative writing degree.  In 2015, I served as an editor for SNHU’s student newspaper, The Manatee.  In addition, I have written for and have been published by numerous online publications, businesses and blogs.

Thanks very much for your time and consideration.  I look forward to hearing back from you!

Best,

 

Halee Andrews

 

A short query letter like this will help get the editor interested and help get your story published with your target publication. The best thing to do is not to overthink it and be excited about your story–and show it in your letter.

Need more help?  Feel free to contact me or shoot me a Tweet.

 

 

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