Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sample query letter for a magazine submission

Another common question, what does a query letter look like, when trying to pitch a magazine story?

The first step is to check the submission guidelines of the publication and determine who exactly will be receiving your query. Also make sure to read the publication beforehand, to determine the tone and style and audience. It helps to look at fixtures in the magazine (recurring features) that might need filling.

Most queries are fairly straightforward, a couple of lines about the angle and idea, followed by the broader approach and potential sources. Only a little biography is needed, since it's really mostly about the idea. Sometimes it is fun to try to add a little spunk. Here is an example of that approach:

Editorial Submissions
XXX The Magazine
123 W. 1st St.
Washington, DC 20049

Put date here


A robber near my home recently ran out of a Kentucky Fried Chicken with his loot and encountered an emerging form of crime fighter: the vigilante granny.
This 66-year-old woman followed the fleeing man in her car, on a hunch. She confronted him, then took chase when he started running. Eventually, she trapped him in a corner, pinned him against a fence, grabbed him in a headlock and waited for the police to catch up.
Forget the cultural stereotype of a little old woman clutching her purse as she shuffles down the sidewalk. A generation of empowered women now has grown older but not necessarily weaker. Some of them aren't standing around anymore while crime or injustice just happens in their neighborhoods.
There was a 75-year-old furious recently with the customer service at Comcast, who brought a hammer into the cable company's office and smashed a computer to make a statement. There was an 80-year-old who tracked down the con artist who bilked her, demanding her money back while wielding a knife. There is a group of elderly women, dubbed the Granny Squad, that patrols the Texas border trying to stop illegal immigration. But none of those stories can match, I think, the bravery and righteousness of what the granny did here in this area. And the danger. The robber was carrying a knife.
This incident could make an interesting short feature or it could be a larger trend piece about these types of Grambo cases appearing throughout the country. I would like to use a narrative approach on the story, either putting readers into the action throughout the work or using those techniques to bookend a bigger trend idea. I see this fitting well in either the general interest section of the magazine or the profiles portion.
As for my background, I worked in daily newspaper journalism for more than 15 years before becoming a freelance writer. I have won many national, regional and state awards for my work. I will send a few clips, and you can see more at I was chosen to be one of the first arts critics in the country to be a National Endowment for the Arts fellow, and I teach journalism and writing at Washington State University as well as other colleges in this area.
I would enjoy talking to you more about this idea and its possibilities. Thank you for the consideration!


Brett Oppegaard
360-521-8150 (c)

1 comment:

Carie said...

Thanks for sharing this, Brett.

I haven't had to search for writing opportunities, as David's colleagues have always sought me, but now that he's in a smaller, non-academic setting, I'll need to search for work.

I continue to visit your page and links for advice and examples.