As you may have read in my last post, I've been struggling with the idea of composing article queries lately. I can't say I'm afraid of rejection; it's more like I'm not too keen on making the time commitment. When you add up the time spent brainstorming the perfect pitch, finding potential sources, reviewing previous issues of the publication and tailoring your idea to fit the magazine's needs...well, it's all just so intimidating!
I spent hours last week developing several concepts for real estate trade magazines, but for some reason, it was like sloughing through mud. My mind wandered. My prose felt stilted. Nothing gelled.
I needed a different approach.
Thank goodness for Susan Johnston over at The Urban Muse and the power of online archives. Although her post about letters of introduction (or LOIs, for short) is nearly three years old, the information it contains is every bit as valuable now as it was when she first published it. For me, it was a game-changer. Let's talk about why.
On the surface, article queries and LOIs may seem similar enough, especially to brand-new freelance writers. They both work to sell a writer's services to an editor, hopefully showcasing said writer's experience and ability to write in a particular niche. However, while the query presents an idea for a specific article, the LOI is more general, emphasizing how the writer can meet the overall needs of the publication.
As Johnston explains in the comments section of her post, queries tend to work best for custom publications that are actively seeking ideas, while LOIs can be a good strategy for trade pubs, especially when your experience is industry-specific. Since most of my clips are related to real estate marketing, I fit into that category. Furthermore, many of the industry publications I follow appear to have their articles written by real estate agents. That means less potential for submitting specific queries, but a ton of opportunity for ghostwriting, another great reason to use the more general LOI. Lastly, I've had a difficult time locating writer's guidelines for the trade pubs in question, so a LOI would be a great way to get a feel for what these magazines are looking for.
So, there you have it---a rough breakdown of the differences between article queries and letters of introduction. Although these freelance cousins are used at different times and for different reasons, many writers will need to create both at some point in their careers. Thus, it's not a bad idea to get some practice creating both documents when you can. Check out this phenomenal post at Dollars and Deadlines for templates of the two, in addition to nearly a dozen other invaluable documents you're sure to use throughout your freelance journey.
Q&A for the Day: Which do you prefer, the more targeted approach of queries, or the more general tone of LOIs? Have you had more success with one over the other, or the same results with both?