It’s been nearly 6 years since this post was originally published — and it’s been one of my most popular ever. The need to write strong query letters has only grown in the years since, so I thought it would be a good time to put it out there again. Enjoy!–Carol
I often have freelance writers tell me they don’t think writing a query letter is worth the effort. They get a lot of rejections, and feel it’s basically a crapshoot…and so much easier to sign on to a content-mill dashboard for a guaranteed few bucks’ worth of work.
It’s true that querying isn’t a sure thing. But if you take the time to learn this skill, it can really help you move up and earn big.
I regularly get lucrative assignments off of query letters and guest post pitches, and I continue to believe querying is a vital skill for successful freelancers.
With so many writers turned off of queries, taking the time to learn how to write a compelling query letter is well worth the effort, as it makes you stand out in today’s marketplace. Querying can open doors when you don’t know anyone at a publication or company, and make a connection that could turn into an ongoing relationship.
For instance: I recently sent one query letter that got me $6,000 of assignments. And I’m reproducing it in full below.
What freelance writer doesn’t dream of snagging a magazine writing assignment for newsstand favorites such as Men’s Health, SELF, or GQ?
Heavyweight magazines may be hard to crack, but with smart, persistent strategy, it’s possible — even if you’ve never had a national magazine writing assignment before.
Here are the tips that helped me land a magazine writing assignment for Runner’s World.
Are you ready to earn a heck of a lot more from your writing in 2016? Good!
You might think it would be impossible for me to write a single post that tells every freelance writer out there how to do the most effective possible marketing in the coming year…but that’s exactly what I’ve got for you.
How can I do that, when some writers are brand new and others have been at this game for years? When some write for magazines and others for businesses? Well, I can do it because there are basically only three types of freelancers:
- Wannabe freelancers who want to quit day jobs, but haven’t taken the plunge yet.
- Freelancers who don’t have any good clients yet — they’re writing for $5 a blog post or $20 an article…that sort of travesty.
- Freelancers who have some good clients, but need/want more or better-paying clients.
There is an approach to marketing that will work optimally for each of these types, because ultimately, creating the ideal marketing plan isn’t that hard (though many writers whine constantly about how difficult marketing is to figure out, in lieu of actually *doing* marketing). Let’s solve this today!
Here we go:
Love them or hate them, queries are one of the most important marketing tools for any freelancer who wants to write for magazines. And the skills you learn from writing a good query letter also help business writers and copywriters pitch their potential clients.
If you’ve been sending queries off into space and never getting a reply, you may think it’s impossible to break into new magazines. But it’s not true! Editors are always looking for new talent.
To help you learn to write a query letter that will get you the gig, we’ve pulled together a collection of five of our best posts on pitching:
There are five stages to pitching a story idea to an editor:
- You get an article idea
- You write the idea up, in a query letter or letter of introduction.
- You send the pitch letter in, usually via email.
- You wait, frequently in vain, for a response.
- You begin the second-guessing game, and start wondering why your article pitch didn’t get you an assignment.
That fifth stage often sends writers into an emotional tailspin, and sucks up way too much time. But it shouldn’t. Really, it shouldn’t exist at all.
There are only two basic reasons why article ideas get rejected — and once you know them, it can help you move on to writing that next query more quickly.
Since I became a freelance writer, most of my work has been in my favorite niche — the equine industry.
Along with web copy, newsletters, tweets and Facebook posts for trainers, big horse shows, and venues, I write articles and blogs for a few regional horse magazines.
But I had a few dream magazine writing jobs on my bucket list. My dream was to write for the biggies, the national horse magazines that all horse people know. Three topped my bucket list: The Chronicle of the Horse, Dressage Today, and the United States Dressage Federation’s Connection. They’re the Triple Crown of a dressage geek’s reading list.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I’ve now sold articles to all three magazines — within a 10-day period. How did I move them from bucket list to client list?
It was actually a simple process. I followed four basic steps: