Fear of the Query!

One of the unique opportunities available to writers is feature article writing. Potential topics for feature articles are nearly endless. Mediums of publication are also varied for feature articles. They can be “featured” in magazines, online, journals, newspapers, blogs, etc. But how do you successfully publish a feature article? According to the ‘2012 Writer’s Market’, the key to successful feature article publication is in the query letter.

Before my History of Publishing class, I had never heard of a query letter. (Thank goodness I have at last, since I am graduating this year, hopeful of entering some kind of professional writing career!). According to the book, there are three central parts to a query letter.

Part 1: The Hook

The goal of the first part of the query is to catch the editor’s attention. (With a likely overwhelming amount of queries on their desktop, and thesis sentences bombarding their minds, editor’s will take any excuse to forgo reading another piece of paper.) Some ways you could do this would be to start your letter with an eye-catching fact. You could also begin your letter in what would be the middle of your piece. (Dangle the carrot! Don’t give the editor the introduction, the conlcusion, or all the juicy statistics).

Part 2: The Specs

The goal for the second part of your query is to keep the editor reading. You want to clearly define your article’s scope and size, and also give the editor a taste of your writing voice, in just 1-2 paragraphs. A few things to include in your specs are your article’s estimated length, the targeted section of the magazine (Kairos! Do you hear me rhetoricians?), any potential interviews, and sources you have already lined up.

Part 3: The Bio

Basically, if the editor is still reading, then you have already done your job. This part of the query is highly subjective. The only essential part is that you share your credentials and why you think you are the best person to write the article, and say so as humbly as possible. Specifically, you may want to address points such as: your personal qualifications, whether or not you have written about this subject before, and any past publications.

Any undergrads reading this might have realized a glitch: what if you don’t have any qualifications because you are fresh out of the classroom and a major greeny? This is what makes Part 3 so subjective. According to the Writer’s Market, if you don’t have experience to boast about, then don’t mention it. It is better to skip these embellishments and close your letter with a polite word of thanks. And if anyone asks you specifically about your credentials, humbly admit to not having any.

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