As a seasoned magazine journalist and a nonfiction editor, I know how to query a magazine editor and what type of pitch makes an editor sit up and take notice. I also know what mistakes will make one never get past the first sentence or two.
These days, the best way to approach an editor is with an emailed query or pitch. It should be short and pithy and show that you know something about the publication’s readers and what they want to read. It also should show that you know something about the magazine’s advertisers. After all, these two groups keep a magazine in business. That said, a terrific idea backed up by a writer’s expertise will more often than not get you the job if presented well in a flawless query letter.
While emailed queries can be a bit less formal than the traditional snail-mailed query, don’t make the mistake of tossing out the old query letter format. Still treat your cyber query much like a business letter, and include all the traditional query elements: an intriguing lead paragraph, a second paragraph explaining exactly how you will approach the article and including a title, word count and information on sources you plan to interview, and a third paragraph detailing why you are qualified to write the story.
A few things not to do:
- Call the editor.
- Send in a query with typos or other errors.
- Put the wrong editor’s name on the letter.
- Indicate that you may not have the experience to write the article.
A terrific idea backed up by a writer’s expertise and knowledge of the magazine will more often than not get you the job if presented well in a flawless query letter. Add a tie in to the publication’s advertising focus, and you have a sure-fire sale.