2017 Update: If you’re looking for more of my successful query letters, I gathered them all and published them. Get a copy of Magazine Queries That Worked.
Thanks to you, lovely blog readers and writers, I’ve been getting a ton of queries in response to my recent post and blog offer “100 Bucks Says You’re Not a Writer.” Interviews with YA editors, new authors, vignettes from writers and many other tips of the trade are being pitched. I am planning on collecting the queries that fit the vision of this blog best and will announce my selections after 11/11/11. Feel free to send as many queries as you like for consideration. Instructions are available here.
To increase your chances of getting my attention I wanted to offer you a query letter that worked for me last year. This query secured an article in AirTran Airways’ GO Magazine. When I taught Writing for Magazines 101 this past summer I included this query, among several others, for attendees to take home. (For any writers in the Raleigh-Durham area, every month I host a Query Clinic where we review query format and I bring a new query that worked for me.)
A basic query should have a hook in the first paragraph to get the editor’s attention. (Typically the first paragraph is going to be the beginning of your article, since you will need to hook the reader too.) A second paragraph fleshing out more details, statistics or expert information follows, but is optional–best to use in pitches for long features. The third paragraph is the nitty-gritty breakdown of the entire piece – what’s your snazzy title, word count, section/department it’s intended for, a specific seasonal issue it may be appropriate for? Your last paragraph is why you’re the best person to write the piece. Where has your work appeared, what are your credentials (not just education, but work/life experience can be cited) and have you written on this topic before?
Hint: For any guest-blogger queries – include your online writing experience, blog statistics, Twitter/Facebook following information and show that you have a strong online base already established. Be sure to tell me which topic your pitch is best suited for.
Here’s the query that worked:
Dear Editor: (the real editor’s name was used here)
Travelling from city-to-city and spending days in business meetings leaves little opportunity for experiencing a region’s culture. A new trend in the hospitality industry is delivering guests local and artistic luxuries through “night school” programs conveniently located within the guests’ hotel.
These programs bring an interactive and educational twist to a hotel stay by hosting musicians, writers, mixologists and theater casts in evenings where guests can talk with authors and discuss book readings, learn about history and preparation of cocktails, as well as speak with local actors about their craft. Travelers won’t have to put their lives on hold when traveling for business with this new trend. Downtown Seattle’s Sorrento Hotel began providing this service to their affluent guests, and other hotels such as The Mandarin in Miami and the Four Seasons in Scottsdale offer gourmet cooking classes for hotel guests.
“Corporate by Day, Culture by Night,” will be approximately 1,200 words. It will bring readers into a new shift in hotel offerings so that they may have better experiences on their business travels with more control over their work-life balance. The piece will feature insight from hotel managers’ and travelers’ experiences.
Interested in this piece for GO? I am available to discuss your ideas and thoughts. I am a freelance writer residing in Raleigh, North Carolina with a B.A. in cultural studies who keeps a strong pulse on industry trends. My work has appeared in the Providence Journal and Chesapeake Family; I also have work forthcoming in Blue Ridge Outdoors. You are welcome to view clips at www.taralynnegroth.com.
Let me know if you have any questions about this story idea; I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you in advance for your time.
Note: I rarely mention my degree in query letters. Since my B.A. is in cinema and cultural studies, when I pitch film-related articles I say I have a degree in cinema, when I pitch social/cultural pieces I say I have a degree in cultural studies. Only if I pitch a business/finance piece I mention that I have six years of residential and commercial real estate experience and that I’m a former licensed real estate agent. Otherwise, it’s non-essential. Think about your own experience.