A query is a sales letter you send to a potential publisher offering an article or other work. Properly crafted, the query can increase your income and save you oodles of time. Although most often used for magazine articles, queries can also be sent regarding books, web content and other ventures. 

Your goal is to get an "ok" to proceed before you do all the work of writing and editing.

Editors and publishers like queries because:

  • It's easier to read a query than a whole manuscript
  • A good query shows the writer can write for the publication in question
  • A poor query is quickly discarded
  • Queries can help with editorial plans

    The secret to successful queries is knowing the publication. You should actually read several issues of the magazine. If you're aiming at a website, study it. Note the style and length of the articles. Are they short with lots of side bars? Or long, with few subheads?

    Take a look at the masthead of several issues. Do the columnist change? If so, you might have a shot at one of those spots.

    Using the masthead or other source like a market listing, determine exactly who you're going to send the query to. It can be worth a phone call to find the right person.Pay attention to the advertising. Companies spend millions targeting their ads to specific a audience. That audience is also the reader of the publication-hence your potential reader. 

    Pick a great title. Make sure it sums up your proposal. And if you can't figure out a great title, use something simple. Editors often prefer to title the piece themselves.Open your query with the first 'graph of your article, or at least a sentence or two.

    Next write a short, pithy paragraph showing why the readers need this particular article.

    Sell yourself next, saying why you are the best person to write this article now.

    Assume the sale in a final sentence that says when you can deliver the article. Be sure to include your complete contact information.

    Keep your letter to no more than two pages; one is even better. If you can't do this easily, you need to spend more time honing your idea.

    Double and triple proofread. Typos, particularly in query letters can kill the sale. 

    If your query is going by snail mail, be sure to enclose an SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope); if you're emailing your query, be sure to follow the guidelines.

    Once it's in the mail, take a deep breath, congratulate yourself, and get on with your next writing project.

    Look at a sample query.

    Write well and often,


  • Author's Bio: 

    Wayman has been freelancing for years. She isAbout.com’s Guide to FreelanceWriters  and the creator, webmaster, etc. for WriteForDollars.com.Her credits are listed on her personal site, AnneWayman.com.