Magazine Query Letter Basics

I sold my first query to a Hearst magazine. I sold my first query to an award-winning regional magazine. I sold my first query to Woman’s World Weekly. I did it by following some basic rules.

First, I researched the magazine thoroughly.

  • Review the article titles on the front page (these are the titles expected to draw reader attention).
  • Review the masthead and compare names there with bylines (this gives you an idea of how much of the magazine is staff written).
  • Review the masthead for the name of the person to query (managing editor or articles editor are best, but if not listed, the third name down is typically the authority level you want).
  • Review the advertisers (advertising targets readership and helps you know who the readers for the magazine are).
  • Review the length of articles (gives you an idea what length the magazine prefers).
  • Review the voice of the publication (you want to know if it’s conversational, formal, academic, etc. so you can write in that voice in your query).

Next, write and rewrite your query letter so it’s no longer than three paragraphs.

  • Paragraph one is your grabber. I always made it the first paragraph of my article so it showed the editor that I could write in the voice the magazine preferred and I could grab the reader’s (editor’s) attention.
  • Paragraph two is your offer. This is where you describe exactly what it is you intend to write for the magazine.
  • Paragraph three is your close. Every query letter is really a sales letter, and good sales people know you always ask for the sale.

Finally, proofread, proofread, proofread. Editors are busy people and jump on any reason they can to reject an offer so they can move on to the next and work their way down their in-boxes. Make it easy for them buy you. If you follow my basic tips, you’ll do just that.

Happy writing!


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