Sunday, August 12, 2007

Query Letters for Magazine Articles

I have several magazine articles tucked away comfortably in my computer folders, waiting for me to dust them off and send them to a magazine for consideration. The articles are patiently awaiting adoption by an editor who will give them residence on the glossy pages of a publication.

Today, I pulled up one of those articles and then set about to do a bit of research on a few magazines that might be interested in it. I googled "writers guidelines" (it would be much easier if I had a subscription to Writers Market, by the way) and began my investigation, dreaming of my name in print.

I came upon what I consider to be one of the great mysteries of freelance writing for magazines: why editors prefer receiving a query letter (one-page "pitch") to the actual magazine article itself. I certainly understand why this would be the case with a full length book, but why would an editor prefer to read a sales pitch as opposed to a full-length article (especially when both documents are about the same length...)?

If you are a magazine editor (or even a more informed writer than I am), please do enlighten me on the reasons for this archaic tradition.

P.S. Here are some magazines that I'd like to write for/get published in: American Baby, BabyTalk, Fit Pregnancy, Time, Business Week, Working Mother, and American Girl (for starters).


Melissa R. Garrett said...

LOL! Those are the exact same magazines for which I am writing articles, with the exception of Time, Business Week, and Working Mother. I even got my daughter a subscription to American Girl just so I could become more familiar with their magazine.

Good luck! And be sure to let us know if you receive an answer to this post :-)

Lisa R. said...

If you are writing personal essays, personal experience, etc., then you don't need to query, just send the whole piece.

But if you want to write features, profiles, service articles, how-tos, round-up pieces, news articles, etc. then yes, they want a query, which by the way should not be nearly as long as the article. Think a one page letter, with the high points, why it's a relevant topic for their readers and why you are the one to write it. Get used to it if you want to be in the business of writing freelance for magazines (and major newspapers). And cheer up, the process of creating a query often helps you refine and focus your topic and can actually help your writing.

Good luck.