If you want expand your reach beyond the internet, consider writing not just your blog or guest posting for other blogs but actually writing for print publications. Yes, print publications still exist, and writing for a few of the many specialty magazines and newsletters could help you build your platform, extend your reach and improve your visibility.
After a few years of writing my blog, My Son Can Dance, I began writing for dance magazines, like Dance Spirit and Dance Teacher Magazine. I’ve also written articles on dance for regional publications—sometimes they even seek me out! Typically, I get paid for these articles, and it helps me promote my ebook, The Summer Dance Intensive Guide.
I also have written for magazines simply for the promotional benefit. That means I did not get paid. This tends to be a no-no amongst professional journalists, and I qualify as one of them. But when you want to promote your book and build platform, you do a lot of things for free—including blogging!
If you want to write for a print publication—or an online version of a print publication or simply an online publication, you need to send a query letter. This is how you land an assignment.
How to Craft and Propose an Idea to a Publication
If you want to propose an article idea to a publication, here are the six steps you need to follow to write a solid query letter:
- Research publications. Study different magazines or publications that cover the topic about which you want to write or who cover topics of interest to the readers you want to reach. Find the best publication or publications to pitch. Become familiar with those magazines, their readers, their advertisers, and their content. If possibly, read 12 months of back issues. In the process, locate the name of the correct and current editor to whom you should address your query. If you are unsure of which editor to select, check the magazine and the website and a resource like 2014 Writer’s Market. If the magazine has departments, find the editor responsible for that department. If you can’t find the correct editor, try an associate editor, who is more likely to give it some time and attention than a top editor. If all else fails, try one of the top editors (usually not the managing editor); they will have assistants to direct your query to the right place. Spell that person’s name correctly; Choose formality over informality (Ms. Amir vs. Nina). Find out the preferred method of communication (email or snail mail). Do not call.
- Angle your idea. Craft your article idea for that publication and its readers. I don’t recommend writing an article or essay first and then looking for a market; it’s harder to sell pieces that way.
- Write your query letter. (See below)
- Proofread and edit your query. You don’t want to have any mistakes. As with any type of query letter, you only get one chance to make a first impression. A typo—especially in the editor’s name or first paragraph—will get you a rejection.
- Send your query.
- Wait. Check the guidelines for the publication you chose online or in 2014 Writer’s Market. If the publication says it responds in two months, assume it takes at least three months. Don’t call before—or ever—to find out if the editor has made a decision. Just wait. If you get tired of waiting, send your query to a different publication.
How to Write Your Query Letter
Now, how do you actually write the query letter? Here are the five elements you need to include in your query:
- Pitch paragraph or lead—This must be your most compelling paragraph. It’s the actual pitch. You want the editor to catch the ball you throw and hang on to it. You don’t want it thrown back. You can use the actual lead to your article here; this often works very well.
- Article description and detail—The second paragraph of your query letter should include the title of your article and all the details about how you will complete the assignment. Include the number of words you plan to turn in, keeping in mind the magazine’s requirements.
- Bio and credentials—Provide a brief bio including pertinent credentials, experience, links to work you’ve had published, etc. If you have any other information that might help land the writing gig, include it as well.
- Conclusion and contact details—I like to end on a positive note. So I usually write a few sentences in a final paragraph saying I hope to hear from the editor and providing my contact information.
- Salutation—Keep it simply. “Sincerely” works well.
If you follow these 11 steps, you’ll increase your chances of producing queries that sell. Also, always keep in mind your true purpose: to build platform and promote your work. That means every article you propose should take you closer to achieving that goal.