What is an LOI?
LOI stands for Letter of Introduction, which is basically a letter where you introduce yourself to an editor or prospect and let them know you’re available for assignments. Once you have a good LOI draft, you can use it over and over, tweaking it for each publication.
Who do I send LOIs to?
LOIs work well for trade magazines and custom publications, where the editors often come up with article ideas in-house. They typically don’t work for consumer magazines, whose editors expect full-fledged queries. However, nothing is stopping you from trying them too!
How do I send an LOI?
I’ve emailed my LOIs almost 100% of the time, though you could certainly try mailing yours to stand out from the crowd. I tried the snail mail tactic a few years ago and did get an assignment that way; the benefit to this was I was able to include some nicely-formatted clips.
What are the basic components of a good LOI?
An eyeball-grabbing subject line — that’s also descriptive. I like, “Freelance writer for Health, Women’s Health, Oxygen, Redbook, and more,” where I sub in the magazines that are most relevant to the market’s subject. Another one I use is, “Do you need a pro business writer”” Simple but effective.
Evidence that you’ve read the publication and are not just spamming your LOI. I like to read through the archives and point out an article I enjoyed — or even just mention that I enjoyed reading through the publication’s website.
A lede that gets to the point. When new writers hear they should make a point of mentioning that they read the publication, they often go overboard with fawning compliments. Don’t do this! It makes your LOI sound like a fan letter. Right up top somewhere, mention that you’re a freelance writer.
A question about where they hire freelancers. This one is easy: “Do you assign articles to freelance writers”” or something along those lines. Be creative!
A credentials paragraph where you highlight the benefits the editor will receive by hiring you. That means you don’t go on and on about how much you love writing and how you’ve been writing since preschool and how you would simply die to write for X magazine. They don’t care.
They want to know what’s in it for them. What can you do that few other writers do? Are you a crack researcher? Are you skilled at finding the best sources? Are you good at translating technical topics for a lay audience?
I mention whatever credits I have that are most relevant to the magazine. But if you have no clips, you can find trades where you have some sort of experience in the magazine’s topic, whether through jobs you’ve had, your education, your hobbies, connections you have in the industry, etc. — and then talk up your experience in the topic. Also, if you have a background in a cross-industry topic of interest like marketing, bring that up.
Personality. Don’t be too businesslike or stilted. Most magazines are written in a conversational tone, so that’s the tone you want to strike too. And don’t be afraid to use humor!
A call to action. Don’t leave the editor hanging — what is it you’re writing for? I like to end by asking if I can send clips because it’s a non-threatening way to open the door to a relationship. You’re not asking for anything scary like a phone meeting or an assignment…just if you can send some clips. This is a request it’s easy for the editor to say Yes to.
Can we see your LOI?
Sure! Here it is with my notes.
Hello! I enjoyed looking through the [Trade Magazine] archives these past few days. [See? Short and sweet.]
Do you assign articles to freelance writers? [There’s the question…it gets right to the point.] I’m a freelancer in Raleigh who writes for such newsstand and trade magazines as Woman’s Day, USA Weekend, Health, Oxygen, Redbook, Writer’s Digest, Target Marketing, Pizza Today, and Deliver (a custom pub for the US Postal Service).
I’m easy to work with (no diva here!) [There’s the personality], professional, and fast (I’ve been writing rush articles for Health and Target Marketing with one-week turnarounds). [These are the benefits I offer editors. I could make this stronger by telling the editors more directly how I benefit them…for example, I can help them when there’s a hole in the magazine, I make their jobs easier, etc.]
May I send you some clips? [My call to action.]
Thanks so much, and I look forward to your reply!
Will you critique my LOI?
How about you: What are your LOI tricks? Do you do anything I haven’t mentioned here that seems to get good results? Please share your insights in the Comments!