While there are many online writing gigs to be found, magazine writing still offers the most lucrative pay for journalists and other nonfiction writers. The key to opening the door to magazine writing gigs lies within the query letter. To land good magazine assignments, you need to write compelling query letters. This is often true for the fiction writer as well.
Following are tips gleaned from successful freelancers with years of magazine writing experience…
The Query Letter’s Components
Just as you would write an article with the magazine’s style in mind, it can pay to take the time to do so with your query as well. In fact the opening of a winning query often reads like the lead or first part of the lead to the article.
So just as you would in your article, start your query with a good hook, such as an amazing fact, profound quote, intriguing anecdote, etc.
After a one or two sentence lead, tell the editor what this article is about, and how you plan to tell the story. Tell the editor what you have in mind for interviews and research sources.
Also weave in a mention of what you can personally bring to the article, including a credential, experience or something else that backs this up. Be confident but not arrogant, and always be courteous and respectful of the editor’s time.
After your summary, provide information such as estimated word count and date of completion, brief information about any art work such as photographs you have (generally not required), mention of any professional or noteworthy writing experience and credentials, whether you’ve included clips (published samples of your writing) and a direct request to submit the piece.
You need to do all of this on one page, so write the rough draft and then tighten until you’ve got your query down to a page and sounding good.
If you are a fiction writer, your query should follow pretty much the same process as the nonfiction query; except instead of summarizing the article you have in mind, you will summarize the plot (including conflict and resolution) and introduce main characters. More an more magazines that publish short stories want to see a query first before the actual story.
Check the writers’ guidelines for query submission preferences.
When submitting your query, be sure to follow the publication’s writer’s guidelines. Also check it more than once for typographical, grammatical and spelling errors.
After your Query is Submitted
Once you’ve sent out a query don’t wait for a response before preparing the next one. Generally response time is 4 to 6 weeks and far more rejections slips are sent than contracts.
Do not be discouraged by rejections. Often the reason is simply that the proposed article’s topic doesn’t fit their needs.
Other times it could be that your query had grammatical or spelling errors, didn’t capture the editor’s attention, or failed to convince that you can deliver the type of article that fits their magazine’s style and is of interest to their readership.
Most rejection slips are sent because the writer didn’t take a good look at the magazines and guidelines or because the writer didn’t do a good job of hooking the editor at the beginning of the query.
If the editor writes a personal note on the rejection slip, be encouraged and pay attention to what you’re being told because most don’t take the time to do this.
After you send off a query, it’s time to get started on your next one, and another…continue until you get an assignment. After you submit your article, don’t sit back and wait for your check or revisions request. Write another query.
The idea is to keep queries going while writing and researching new assignments so when you get a check you have another soon on the way. This is how you avoid the feast or famine syndrome.
Remember, you can greatly boost your magazine writing career by taking the time to study the publications and writing compelling query letters.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Leichter is the author of The Freelance Writer’s GPS: Explore freelance opportunities, chart your course, and navigate a successful writing career. To learn how to become a freelance writer – where to find freelance writing opportunities that are right for you and how to land them, how to manage a prosperous writing business and more, visit