Can the Query/LOI Hybrid Help You Break Into More Magazines?

By Linda Formichelli

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]

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29 comments… add one
  • I honestly didn’t realize there was a difference between the two haha. I guess I didn’t know much about queries. 🙂

    • LOL, well now ya know! 🙂 And if you’re still not clear, check out the previous posts on this blog about queries and LOIs.

  • Linda, I thought this was really helpful–thanks. Your advice was straightforward, specific, clearly explained.

  • Thanks Linda for another great article. As a new writer, I find having an actual example for query writing incredibly helpful.

  • Oh, this is the perfect solution to a problem I ran into this morning. Thanks!

  • I just found this post via the Freelance Writers Den. I think this outline will help me immensely. I’m working through the “How to Get Great Clients” sessions right now.

  • I know this is an old post, but I’ve only recently read it and I wanted to share my experience! I’m just breaking into magazine writing (I have a feature article in the December issue of a UK consumer cat magazine), and I sent off a query/LOI hybrid to a couple of pet trade magazines this morning. I’ve already had a response back from one saying that although everything is usually written in-house, they loved one of my ideas and have asked how much I’d want to write it for them!

  • And another one to add! A second of the trade mags came back and asked me to write one of my ideas, they didn’t even want to see a full query. I wrote it, the editor loved it and it’s going to print next week! Thank you so much x

  • Maya

    It would be great if you could include a sample “Idea” for #4. I pitched a magazine recently and they wrote back “Thanks but no thanks.” I’m not sure if I gave too much or too little away. Could you possibly provide an example of what the “Idea” portion should look like?

  • Linda,

    Thank you for this great post. It’s going to be of great help to me, as I’ve recently discovered Webwire ( and; I now have a list of numerous trade magazines at my fingertips, which may require; a query/letter of Introduction hybrid.

    Thank you again!

    • Very cool! I had been looking for a replacement for which was very hard to use, and found WebWire. Glad it’s helpful to you!

  • Dani J

    Thank you so much, Linda! I applied this format for the first queries I sent out yesterday; surprisingly, the very first one I sent out got a reply 3 hours later from the editor! He is interested in working with me and loved my ideas; he has asked me to write up one of my suggestions as a trial run and go from there…fingers crossed that I just landed my first professional gig!

  • Hi Linda,

    Let me start by saying I’m a long time member of the Freelance Writers Den.

    Next, let me jump to this right away: I’m overjoyed to tell you great news. My writing career is heading in a direction that I can only describe as magical!

    All because of this post. This wonderful piece about using a hybrid of LOI and a Query letter to break into magazines.

    I’ve used your tips here and I got a promising gig! I’ve kicked Lifehacker’s doors open! 🙂

    Now, I know I can use the same tips to pitch other reputable sites and print mags. I thought I’ll need to send the site several emails but one was enough and from the ideas (I gave the editor 3) I was assigned to write one right away. Didn’t need to flesh out a full pitch. The short idea I gave was enough. And here’s the best part, they want me to contribute more posts!

    Thanks for the tips you’ve included here. They rock!


  • Hi Linda, thanks for posting this! After reading it, I worked up an LOI—with ideas, sent it, and landed a really sweet gig!

    I’ve had a perma-grin all day—you’re the best!


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