Should you try to break into that magazine with a quick Letter of Introduction (LOI) or a fully fleshed-out query?
Sometimes, it’s best to do both.
If you don’t have a lot of clips and/or experience in the topic of the magazine you want to write for, an LOI can fall flat. You’re basically saying, “Hey, here I am…I don’t have much to offer you, but I’m hoping you’ll hand me a freelance assignment just the same.”
At the same time, I can understand why many writers are loath to spend hours or days writing up a query letter when they’re not sure they’ll score.
The solution: Send an LOI, but include from one to three brief ideas.
That way, you’re showing the editor you have something to offer besides just “Hey, here I am!” The best way to get an assignment is to submit an idea that makes an editor look brilliant to her boss, so this is where you step up — without slaving over a query letter. (At least initially…an editor may ask you to officially pitch one of your ideas.)
So here’s how it works:
1. Dear John: (No “Dear Editor” here — get the editor’s name!)
2. An icebreaker that shows you’re familiar with the magazine and makes it known right up front that you’re a freelancer, such as: “As a freelance writer with a background in industrial psychology, I enjoyed the article on absenteeism in your May issue.”
3. The nut graph, where you reveal why you’re writing: “I researched your back issues and came up with three ideas I thought your readers would be interested in:
4. The ideas, with eyeball-grabbing titles and one paragraph of description each.
5. Your credentials: “I’m a freelance writer in Raleigh who has written for X. My background in industrial psychology and writing means I can write clear, entertaining articles on A, B, and C for a lay audience.”
6. The closer: “Let me know if you’re interested in any of these ideas and I’d be happy to write up a fully-fleshed pitch for you. Thanks, and I look forward to your reaction!”
See how this offers more than an LOI, but doesn’t take as much out of you as a query? And you’re not being lazy — you’re telling the editor you’re willing to flesh out any of the ideas he’s interested in. (But keep in mind that many editors will assign stories straight from these descriptions!)
This query/LOI hybrid works especially well for trade and custom publications, but don’t discount it for larger magazines as well. When I hosted a webinar with an editor at Redbook for the Freelance Writers Den last week, she said that she prefers quick ideas and an introduction over a lengthy pitch.
Try out the query/LOI hybrid and let me know if it works for you! [lf]