How to Write a Magazine Article Query to an Editor

One of the more common questions asked in the writers forum (which you can visit here if you’re a writer — it’s a free and awesome writers forum) is about how to transition from writing online content to getting published in print magazines and higher-paying markets. In order to do that, you have to learn how to submit and query to the higher-paying markets. The first step in that process is writing a query for your article.

But how do you write a magazine article query?

For me, it’s an easy question to answer now, but when I first started freelancing, I had no clue how to write an article query or even how to submit to these larger markets. I made a lot of mistakes, because I plowed through it and tried to do it all my way, thinking I knew what was up. Truth was, I made a lot of rookie mistakes, mistakes I wish I’d known better before I started submitting. Remember, your reputation in the writing community is important. It’s a small community in the scheme of things and editors talk to each other. Always set your best foot forward.

When submitting an article directly, that means writing the best article you can, fully edited and as close to publish ready as possible. Always proof, spell things properly, format it based on industry-standard formatting guidelines or follow the submission guidelines to the letter.

When the submissions guidelines call for you to query first, that’s when you have to know what belongs in a query letter.

How to Write a Magazine Query Letter

With a nonfiction article query, you want to keep it short and sweet, hitting only the main points without any rambling. You only have a few seconds to get an editor’s attention and show your authority, so don’t waste it with things that don’t matter.

Magazine Query Letter Salutation:

First, your salutation. This is the:

Dear Mr. or Ms. So-and-so Editor:

If you know the editor’s name, use it, but be sure you have the right editor’s name for your submission and that you spell the name right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received queries or submissions for our projects in which people address me as “Mitchy” or “Michey”. My nickname online is Michy, but for a professional query from someone who doesn’t know me, it would have made a better impression to call me Michelle or Ms. Devon or Michelle Devon (if you know me in person or through the forum, though, Michy is fine as long as you spell it right). The point is, spell the name right and submit to the right person in your salutation. Don’t assume about names either as far as gender is concerned. I’ve met a few female Tony-s and Terry-s and even a female Jerry once too. If in doubt, try to look it up, but you can always say:

Dear Editor:

Greetings:

But do try to avoid the “To Whom it May Concern” for a salutation. This pretty much shows you didn’t do any research to find a name, and it’s very generic and impersonal.

Magazine Query Letter First Paragraph:

The first paragraph of the query letter should get right to the point of what the article is going to be about. Try to skip the fawning and such that we’re typically inclined to do in a letter. There’s really no need to say you love the magazine or that you this or that. They don’t need to know that. They already assume you like the magazine and want to be published in it. Save the words for making your writing shine. Editors who accept queries or submissions from freelancers read so many of them that they really appreciate when someone gets right to the point and gives them ONLY what they need to make a decision.

The first paragraph should be simple and to the point what the article you’re proposing is about. In 3-5 sentences, tell the editor about the article you propose to write. Hit the high points.

Magazine Query Letter Second Paragraph:

The second paragraph is an explanation of why YOU are the right person to write the article you’re proposing to write. For example, if you were/are a child care employee and you’re writing about how to get children to fingerpaint, then you use the angle that you work in child care. If you have a degree or education or training or a job in the past or now that gives you special experience to write the article you’re proposing, include that. This paragraph isn’t the place to tell about your awards for writing or other places you’ve been published though. This is only for telling about how you are qualified to write this particular article.

If you don’t have experience or qualifications to write the article, then you need to explain in this paragraph what steps you’ll take to research and write the article. For example, I wrote an article once about teen attitudes about sex. I’m not a teen, and though I’ve had sex, I’m not sure that qualifies me to write an article about teen sex. So in the query, I wrote about how I would interview teens in both high school and college, and that I’d already gained permission from the college to do so. So if you don’t have education or direct experience, you need to tell the editors what makes you qualified to write the article you’re proposing or what steps you’ll take in order to be qualified to write it.

Magazine Articles Query Letter Paragraph Three:

Next, you want to tell them how and why it fits with their magazine/publication — what category it goes under for them (is it their beauty section or their opinion essays sections or some other section?) Why is the article a good fit for their magazine? Here you’ll show that you have done your research and you know the market that is their readership and that what you’re proposing to submit to them is for them and their readers.

Biography for a Magazine Article Query Letter:

They like to know that you’ve been published other places, if you have. If you’ve been published multiple places, chose the most recent places that have the most similarity to the type of place you’re querying. For example, don’t query a children’s publication with a bio that says you just wrote for Tech World, unless the writing for them was a review of a children’s product or something related.

If you don’t have professional bylines though other than content sites, just don’t say anything about that. Don’t say anything negative, no matter how positive you think it sounds. For example, don’t say things like, “Even though I’m inexperienced….” or “I’ve never been published in print, but….” those things are unnecessary negatives, no matter how much you think it comes across positive.

Summing up the Magazine Query:

So the short: What you want to write, why you want to write it (and how and where it fits with the publication), why you’re qualified to write it, and who you are (if you have bylines or clips). Thank them for their time, and sign it. Keep it about three or four paragraphs maximum, short and sweet and professional.

Lastly, be sure you’re addressing it to the right editor for the right section of the publication. If you can get the editor’s name, all the better, so you can personalize the query.

I have used this method time and time again and have had much success with it. Good luck! If you want to put the query up in the critiques and feedback section under the password: password – we’d be happy to help you prepare it over the forum here: http://accentuatewriters.com/

Love and stuff,
Michy