Even if you have successfully published a book, novel or article online, getting an article or fiction piece published in a magazine is an entirely different experience. Not only are you dealing with different editors and subject material, but the priorities of a magazine are far different than those of a book publisher. When you query a magazine, you must keep in mind the things that magazine editors value.
First Paragraph: Start with a Bang
A magazine query letter should lead off much like the article you’ve written for the magazine – think news story. Readers of magazines and newspapers rarely read every issue cover-to-cover; instead, they browse for headlines and starter sentences that grab their attention. Since you are hoping to grab the attention of the magazine editor, you’ll need to start the query letter off the same way.
Many experienced magazine writers advice aspiring authors to start their query with a question that not only piques the editor’s interest, but also describes the subject matter. For example, if you are querying a magazine for your article about horse thieves, you might start the letter by saying, What if you went out to the barn tomorrow morning and discovered that your horse wasn’t there?
Give the Word Count
After your attention-grabbing opening sentence, you’ll want to describe your magazine article in an interesting way. One of the most important things to include is the word count, as magazines plan their issues by determining the amount of space an article or story will take up. For a magazine query, you should round your word-count to the nearest ten.
Example: My 1,510-word article, Horse Thieves in Texas, describes the terrifying struggle that horse-owners face when trying to protect their stock from unscrupulous villains.
Second Paragraph: Explain Why It’s Important
The second paragraph of your magazine query should explain to the editor why your article is important. Why is it different from the other articles they’ve published, and how will it help their readers? You can mention current events that pertain to your article or story as well as any statistics that make your content time-sensitive.
Example: Every year, more than 10,000 horses are stolen from private and public stables all across the United States, but many barn owners aren’t aware of this issue. My article will tell your readers how they can protect their animals with newly-developed safety precautions and technology.
Third Paragraph: State Your Intent
The third paragraph of your magazine query brings it all together and tells the editor exactly how you will write the article. List any experts who have agreed to interviews as well as sources for statistics, photographs you’ll submit, information for sidebars and the amount of time it will take you to write the piece.
Example: Renowned horse trainer David Johanson has agreed to an exclusive interview in which he will explain the safety measures he uses to protect his horses. I will also include three photographs of barns where technology has been implemented to safeguard the facilities. I can complete this article in less than two weeks from your go-ahead.
Fourth Paragraph: Brief Author Biography
Once you have finished the meat of your magazine query, you’ll need to tell the editor why you are qualified to write the piece. Where have you been published and what kind of experience do you have with the subject matter? Keep this paragraph to three or four sentences and make sure the information is pertinent to the piece.
Example: I have worked with horses for more than twenty years and I was the victim of horse thieves just six months ago. My articles have previously appeared in Equus, Horse Illustrated and Horse & Rider.
As with any other query letter, a magazine query should be kept to a page or shorter in length. Print the query on your own personal letterhead and address it to the appropriate editor at the magazine. In addition, the salutation of your magazine query should include the name of the editor for which it is meant. Never address a magazine query to “Sir” or “Ma’am”.