Query Letter Writing: What the Editors Say

So in our last discussion about dissecting a successful query letter, one of our community members (who is an editor) felt my query letter was too long.  While I do agree with her that brevity is important, I think the detail was important in this particular case.

But the discussion board had me thinking:  what exactly is the minimum you need in your query letter?  Instead of just wondering, I went to the source and asked several editors that I know the following question:

Less is More:  What ‘questions’ are the bare minimum that a writer need to answer in a query letter/pitch?

Here’s what I found out:

“For SocialMediaExaminer.com we take a close look at a factors.  First, have they written about social media and specifically have they written “how to” pieces.  Then we take a close look at their writing style.  For our audience it has to be conversational.  Finally we ask them to propose topics for articles (once they have passed the first two gates).  If we like all of the above we will review an original piece for consideration.”

- Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner, a top 100 business blog (according to Technorati).

“They’re not always relevant, but generally are:

  • Why now? (Why is your piece timely?)
  • Why you?  (Why are you uniquely qualified to write this piece? What background/experience do you have that makes you an expert?)
  • What kind of readership do you bring with you? (Are you on Twitter, Facebook, etc? Do you know how to promote your work? Do you have a blog? Do you bring a readership with you?)
  • What kind of supportive material might be available? (High res photos? Video? I may not use it, but I’d like to know about it).”

- Julie Schwietert Collazo, Managing Editor of the Matador Network, the world’s largest independent travel magazine.

“In terms of the bare minimum, I’d say writers should tell editors three main things: what’s the story/subject they pitching, why its newsworthy and why the publication their pitching needs it (eg: they haven’t covered it recently and the last article covering the subject is outdated.) Of course I’d advise avoiding phrases like “this is newsworthy because..” If the pitch is well crafted that much will be apparent and that sort of phrasing lacks creativity and voice.”
- Kymlee Morrison, Editor at Entrepreneur Magazine, an online and print small business publication

P.S.

Just a couple of closing thoughts:
  • Notice None of those Answers are Identical:  Proof that you must study the publication, or actually be a reader before you can successful pitch your query.  If you take nothing away from this, take this.  I repeat:  study your publication before pitching.
  • Your Topic Idea Isn’t the Only Thing Important:  Reading these three viewpoints, one common thread I see is Why You.  Why are you the one qualified to write this piece?  I think if you have a good portfolio website and some transparency into your background and qualifications, that should be easy to prove, but be sure and spell it out.

Helpful?  What query letter questions should we answer in a future post?  Weigh in down in the comments.

Photo by D Park

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