Editors are a busy lot, always having to decide what goes into a publication and which does not. Hence, it’s no surprise that many print magazines do not encourage unsolicited submissions. But if you are an ambitious writer, one who harbours dreams of making it big in the publishing world, you may need to use this path to get yourself noticed.
The problem is, there is a lot of substandard writing out there, and they are cramming your entrance. Therefore, editors have decided to make the search process a little easier – albeit, for them. They want submissions to come with query letters.
What is a query letter?
A query letter can help to convince an editor to give your writing a shot. Hence, you shouldn’t write it in a too-casual tone. It is not an application, and you should never write anything that remotely amounts to begging them to consider your manuscript. It is however a picture of your writing skills, and your achievements. It doesn’t have to be fancy but you can use it to showcase the creativity in your writing and appreciation for humour. And overall, it should be short and concise.
Editors read query letters to get an idea of whether the writer understands the publication’s needs and style. Having your grammar rules right is definitely not enough. Editors are also looking for a professional approach, which will be reflected in your work, whether you like it or not. And they also want writers who are committed to fulfilling the needs of what they would consider ‘a good piece’.
Writing your query letter
Consider the contents of your query letter a sales pitch. Every aspect of a query letter holds significance, and therefore, should contain sufficient information to allow the reader to gauge if the writer is qualified enough to write on the subject.
Write to Impress
Begin the letter by addressing the editor. Be formal, and never use a first name – be it yours or the editor’s. Your introduction must attract an editor’s attention, and should give him or her enough motivation to read the whole letter. Make it short, but effective and ideally no more than four sentences long. The first part is generally an attention grabber. There are various methods of writing the introduction. Some writers ask questions or identify a need, then produce the solutions for it, bringing his services into the picture.
The second paragraph should tell an editor how the article will be written. Include the title of the subject, which will give the reader idea about the topic you intend to cover. The pitch is essentially a brief proposal.
Explain the ideas
You should also have a paragraph that defines the work. It should contain a full account of how the writer intends to present the topic. Include the sub-headings, complete details and the flow of the topic. Even at this stage, it is already important to figure out suitable sub-headings, for the end-product. Explain each sub-heading in brief.
List your achievements
You should also list your achievements in the writing world. Present a brief detail on your past work, and if possible, the links to articles that are available on the Web. Name only the pieces that will help the cause. You can briefly touch on published work in magazines or books to enhance your standings. Mentioning the academic degrees that you have, especially in field related to what you will be writing, will also help in establishing your credibility.
The conclusion should carry a note expecting a positive response from the editor. You may also use it to mention the time frame, by which you will submit your article, if the editor chooses to publish it.
A query letter should be written with honesty, and must be formatted well to persuade the editor to read your actual piece. This is not the time to make blundering spelling mistakes or grammatical slip-ups so make sure you spell check your query letter before you send it in. Take your time with it and do revisions to minimize errors. It could possibly make or break your writing career.