The query letter is the gatekeeper of publishing at higher-tier magazines and respected online journals and websites. It’s also the bane of some writers’ existences—because it’s not quite writing, and yet it is.
The query letter is about pitching without sounding sales-y, representing yourself without coming off arrogant, and offering your unique touch and personality—but not too much.
It’s you offering yourself, your ideas and your inspiration up for judgement. And it can be really terrifying.
I’ve coached writers who would rather write thousands of words and spend hours of time researching their article or manuscript than write 200 words to an editor explaining what they’re up to. And sometimes, they never even write the query letter, because they’re too scared of rejection.
Trust me, I’ve been there many times. I’m actually there right now, in that I’d rather write this article to help people than write a query letter for the piece I just spent two weeks traveling around the country researching and immersing myself in. (At least I’m honest.)
In fact, I’ve been on both sides of things. As an editor for everything from quarterly print magazines to websites to weekly newspapers, I’ve deleted or not responded to more pitches than I can count. (Well, someone’s counting, because since I became primarily an independent writer and entrepreneurial journalist, karma has returned the favor with handfuls of un-responded emails.)
Based on more than a decade of experience on both sides of the fence, I’m going to give you a simple formula—but not too formulaic—to write a query letter that gets read and responded to by editors. And by “letter,” I mean “email,” because 2015.