Friday, January 26, 2018

Launch Your Writing with an Effective Query Letter

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

You’ve done it—you’ve finished your article, devotion, or poem. Now what? How do you get it out of the computer and into the hands of readers? Second only to excellent writing, the key to publication is knowing how to write an effective query letter.

Query letters are short, formal letters you send to the editor of a magazine or website asking them to consider your piece for publication. 

A successful letter has four components:
  • Hook
  • Synopsis
  • Your qualifications
  • Friendly closing

Let’s look at each component along with an example from a successful query letter I wrote recently:

The Hook: 
An effective hook grabs an editor’s attention and makes them want to read more.

Dear (Editor’s name),

When my husband and I were newly married, we had the opportunity to host a young woman from the Philippines in our home for several months.

The Synopsis:
A brief summary of your article or post. It hits the highlights (without leaving the editor dangling) and demonstrates your ability to write well. An opportunity to reveal your fresh spin or unusual approach, the synopsis is a mini-version of your article. Be sure to include what rights you’re offering, the length of the piece, and when it will be available.

Evangeline was my age, but was very child-like as she explored the many things we took for granted. Watching her enthusiastically embrace simple things like hot water and birthday cakes humbled and convicted me. Through her example I learned to exchange grumbling and entitlement for gratitude and contentment. “Struggling with Contentment? Try Gratitude” is a 700-word article about my experience. The article is complete, and I’m offering first rights. I’d be honored if you’d consider it for inclusion in the June 2018 issue of (magazine name). This is a simultaneous submission.

Your Qualifications:
Use this paragraph to prove to the editor why you’re the right person to write this article. Include personal information if it relates to the subject. Mention similar publications for which you’re written or other writing credits.

To tell you a little about myself, I’m a pastor’s wife and the editor of South Carolina’s Reach Out, Columbia magazine. I’ve authored two devotional books and contribute to various online and print resources including, The Upper Room, and Today’s Christian Living.

Friendly Closing:
Conclude your query letter with kind words about the publication and its contributions and thank the editor for considering your piece.

I’ve long enjoyed reading ______ magazine and appreciate the opportunity to submit an article. Should you find my piece suitable, I look forward to talking with you more about it. Thanks so much for your time.

A Final Step: Proofread your letter.
Put the same care into the letter that you (hopefully) put into the story or article. A poorly proofed letter doesn’t bode well with editors. They may still give you a chance if there’s a minor typo or two (though preferably not in their name or the company name), but a letter filled with errors goes straight in the trash.

If you craft an excellent piece and follow these five steps for writing a query letter, I’m confident you’ll find a home for your literary masterpiece.

Now it’s your turn. Have you effectively pitched an article, blog post, or other work with the use of a query letter? What tips can you share? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.


*This article is an excerpt from Lori’s writing conference workshop, “Out of the Computer and into the World—How to Launch Your Writing.” 


  1. Replies
    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful, Aadil. Write on!

  2. Excellent and practical advice, Lori.

    1. May God richly bless your writing, Ingmar. THanks for your kind words.

  3. Thank you for the example letter, Lori. Do you attach the article or include it in the body of the email? I ask because when querying a literary agent, many don't want an attachment but will request a proposal or chapters to be in the body of the email. Or does it depend on the particular publication/editor? Thanks!

    1. Karen,
      As you suspected, this will vary from publishing house to publishing house. Some give you the opportunity to submit a query letter and attach your submission. Others want a query first. One publication I regularly write for has an online form where there's room for an intro letter or message and then you attach the submission. I always place a query letter in the box to (hopefully) pique the editor's interest and make him/her want to click open the attachment. Yet another good reason to read the submission guidelines VERY thoroughly :). Blessings to you, Karen!

  4. Excellent...and timely (for me). Thank you for sharing!!!

    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful, Kim. May God open doors for your writing :)

  5. Thank you for sharing these great tips.

    1. You're most welcome, Ashley. THanks for chiming in today :)

  6. Good info. Yup, I remember those days. I’ve been out of the literary agent game for at least 8 years, having been under contract with two agents for seperate books. Neither agent could close the deal—publishers didn’t want to take a chance on a newbie—so I decided to go the indie publishing route. Way happier with that.

  7. I found this very helpful. Thanks a lot.