The Renegade Writer

How to Write a Letter of Introduction That Will Impress Editors and Get You More Freelance Writing Gigs

I get a lot of questions about LOIs, so I decided to create this primer on one of the most valuable marketing tools in a freelance writer’s arsenal.

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?

You need:

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.

Here are some ways to build up your credentials even if you don’t have many clips.

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.

Dear [name]:

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!

Cheers,

Linda

Will you critique my LOI?

If you’re my phone mentoring client, yes. Also if you belong to the Freelance Writers Den, where Carol Tice and I will look over your LOIs in the forum. Come on over!

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!

Jun 13, 2012 Advice, Marketing

22 Responses

  1. Linda,

    This is a great post! I have also gotten work from LOIs. It’s a great way to market yourself.

  2. Tania Dakka says:

    Ha! I was just thinking about looking these up and seeing more about them! Sweet! Awesome timing and thanks for showing yours! I had thought that maybe it would be something that I could use for snagging the attention of businesses that I’d like to sell my sales copy and social media services to. I’ve got a script that I use for cold-calls, but I don’t have a set formula for cold-emailing.

    Thanks so much for the timely post!

  3. Beti Spangel says:

    Do you ever follow up on your LOIs?

  4. Julie says:

    You replied to my AW post this morning! Loved this post about LOI. I am completely new to this world and soak up any writing help I can get. Thanks!

  5. Nancy Portz says:

    Hi, Linda,
    This is so timely since summer is around the corner, & I’m planning on finally becoming proactive with my writing! Thanks for the excellent advice–as always! Please say “Hi” to your Mom for me. :)

  6. I loved this post! I have a quick question though, for those of us who are just starting out, and haven’t written for any magazines yet, and don’t really have any clips, should we forget about sending LOI’s until we have more experience?

  7. Caitlin says:

    Great post as always, Linda. I’ve got some great ideas on how to tweak my LOIs from this. I admit though, what really gives me trouble is the NEXT letter — the one you send back after the editor has contacted you and said, “Great, I’d love to see your clips, send them over.”

    I generally just send something that thanks the editor for contacting me back, a list of clips I think are relevant, and then thank them again and say I look forward to hearing from them. But I wonder if I’m missing some crucial step, or another call to action I should be including, or something.

    • Thanks for your comment, Caitlin! You mean you send the editor a list of LINKS to your clips, right? Because the editor doesn’t just want to see a list of clips you have but some actual samples, which you can send as links in the e-mail or as attachments.

      Other than that, I write a short note just as you did, and then follow up in 2 weeks or so to make sure the editor got the clips, see if he’s had a chance to check them out, and ask if there’s anything I can do for him.

      I hope that helps!

  8. […] LOIs are Letters of Introduction and I discovered them last year from a badass freelance journalist and writer named Linda Formichelli. She outlines letters of introduction here on her blog. […]

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