Writing a query letter is something that makes a lot of writers nervous. The nervousness and apprehension, though, is understandable. A query letter is your first contact with the editor of a newspaper or other publication. And as such, it can either make or break an assignment. However, once a few basic points are taken care of, and a professional flow is ensured in the letter, a query letter is quite easy to write and can be effective.
Be familiar with the publication: Reading the publication you are planning to write for is imperative. It gives you information about the target audience, about the authors and about the people behind the magazine. More importantly, as you demonstrate your knowledge of the publication in the query letter, the editor is more likely to be impressed by you as the right man for the job.
Ensure that the contact details are correct: Sending a query letter however persuasive it may be to a wrong address or person will not get you anywhere. The chance of it getting forwarded to the right person is extremely slim. Ensure that you are sending your letter to the correct person in the publishing firm. Another important thing to be checked is whether the publication accepts queries via snail mail or email.
Describe what you are writing: Tell the editor what you are writing about. It could be a gist of your article. It also tells the editor about your writing style and your ability to deliver.
Give your contact details: Mention your contact details clearly. It gives a professional touch to your letter.
Describe your credentials: This is important, especially if you are dealing with the editor for the first time. Editors may be reluctant to hand out assignments to writers they know little about. Describing your credentials and your experience, however modest they may be, can be a great way of building the editor's confidence in you.
Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope: If you are corresponding via snail mail, attach a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Some editors will not reply if they do not want the article, unless you enclose a SASE.
Proofread your letter: There can be nothing more unfortunate than a letter filled with spelling and grammatical errors. This can prove to be a serious blunder. Although you may be good in spelling and grammar, errors can creep in due to oversight.
Follow a standard format: Some writers recommend that you split the query letter into distinct paragraphs. The first can contain the title of the topic and details, such as the word limit and how long you will take to deliver. The second can provide a brief outline of the topic and how you plan to go about it. The third can describe the topic in detail and explain why you are the right person to write it. In this paragraph, you can mention your credentials and previous experience. A standard and clear format can have a positive effect on the editor and help him to make a favorable decision.