Part I of this blog series outlines how to research media outlets and publications. The next step to getting published in leading media outlets is pitching your article idea to the publication. Pitches are usually accomplished through a one-page query letter. Top publications receive hundreds of queries a month, so crafting a stand-out query is essential to grabbing an editor’s attention and getting an article assignment.
You should address your query to an actual person, whenever possible. Generic letters addressed “To Whom It May Concern” are more likely to reach the rejection pile. Do your research in identifying the proper addressee and follow up a few weeks after you have sent the query.
Below are five steps to drafting an effective query letter.
The first sentence or paragraph of your query must grab the editor’s attention and entice him or her to read further. The hook should be short, succinct and engaging. Effective hooks can be posed as a problem/solution, an anecdote, a startling fact or statistic, a question (“Did you know…?”), or another attention-grabbing technique. The goal is to offer a unique, fresh approach to a topic relevant to the publication’s readership. Uninspired openings (“My name is Jack Brown and I would like to write an article for your publication about…”) will send your query to the rejection pile.
The pitch details the basics of the article you are proposing. It might propose a working title, identify the word count and outline the section of the publication where the article will best fit, such as a particular column.
The body of the article consists of one to three paragraphs outlining the details of your proposed article. It might include the topics you will cover, expert sources, images you plan to include, sidebars and other elements. It is important to flesh out the article enough to give the editor a good idea of what you will cover without providing too much detail.
Most publications want to know why you are uniquely qualified to cover the topic. The credentials paragraph explains your background including professional experience, academic training, related professional affiliations, speaking engagements, and other related credentials. You should also outline your writing experience and include links to published publications if possible. The goal is to showcase your unique platform and convince the editor to give you the green light to write the story.
The closing is a short paragraph thanking the editor and encouraging him or her to contact you.
A well-crafted query can make or break your chances of publication. If the article idea is accepted, the query can serve as a working outline of your final article.
For more information on the steps to getting published, review 7 Steps to Publishing Articles in Major Media Outlets. If you need any help in crafting your query letter, identifying publications to target or developing a media plan, PaperStreet’s content team is happy to assist.