A query letter is basically a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine, inquiring whether or not their print would be interested in your article. Oftentimes it’s sent out before the article’s complete or totally revised. This saves the writer time; if no one replies, then the article’s content is too boring and the writer needs to move on. There are plenty of resources to teach about query letters, and some company’s even provide instructions on the format and content of the letter. But these are seven things writers usually forget before they send their letter.

  1. Make certain you’ve designated the current editor or literary agent correctly. This means researching their credentials. Do they have a PhD or a masters? Are they referred to as Doctor _____ or simply Editor, or Chief of Editing? Double check your spelling and verify the address you put in the header.
  2. Your leading paragraph should catch the reader’s interest and reflect your unique writing style. Remember these people are paid to read hundreds of query letters a day, so keep it interesting.
  3. After the hook your second paragraph will be about the article’s content, so make it relative. Remind them that there’s a large demographic that would find this article interesting or involves something of their lifestyle.
    Also tell the editor if artwork or photographs are available for the article.
  4. Mention the word length of the article as well as any interviews you’ve planned or any other material you’ve uncovered that makes the article unique.
  5. Mention any relevant publishing credentials, and do not tell the editor if you’re unpublished.
  6. Keep the closing brief.
  7. Hand sign your signature above the typed version of your name, and provide contact information underneath it. Be sure to use a professional email address.

If you’re a fiction author with a plot or story in mind it’s a good idea to send out query letters prior to writing the manuscript. Doing so will save you time and money. Write the manuscript while waiting for the replies about your query letters sent to publishing companies and literary agents. Typically these parties have a waiting list about a year long so don’t rush your work. By the time you’ve finished the manuscript you’ll have a short list of publishing companies and literary agents to send your manuscript to, saving you posting money if you have to send a physical copy.