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Query Letters That Sell Your Story

Learn how to leave editors wanting more.
April 15, 2002
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/50956

Q: I have something I think the press/media will be interested in, but it's not in press release form-it's an article. Can I send that to editors?

A: The way to get your "story" in front of the editor is to use what is commonly known as a query letter. The purpose of this letter is to briefly suggest facts and information to an editor about your story. The key word is briefly. A query letter is a summary of information; it is not the whole article. It is sort of a "tease" that makes the editor want more. The challenge here, of course, is to take your information and condense it into a few paragraphs for the query letter.

Many times a company will send out a press release and, at the conclusion, mention something about the contact person being available for interviews. Interviews are most often requested as a result of queries, not press releases. If you're trying to get a radio or TV interview, then pitching the producer (the equivalent of editor in the print world) with a query letter will increase your probability of success.

What goes into a query letter? First, it is still a letter, so you should present it as such, professionally and concisely. Start the letter with something that immediately captures the interest of the editor/producer: a quote, a controversial question or something that would make a reader stop, think and read what you have to say. Remember, you are teasing here, so your goal is for them to want to read further.

Following this, get right to the point of your pitch. It's always good to put why your article/information is important to the readership/viewership of the publication. At this point, it's OK to get a little deeper into your subject matter to round out the summary, but remember, you are still "teasing." Any special twists or reasons why your situation is unique can be stated here. A few more facts (not fiction or opinions) can be included to round out the summary.

Back to writing basics and communicating what editors want to hear, you would then communicate exactly what you are proposing. Editors will check here to make sure you understand their publication-what column, what department, what section of the publication. Editors also like to know the length of your proposed article. It again lets the editor know that you know what you're doing.

To further lend yourself credibility, you can cite other publications where your information has been published or where similar stories were printed. Also, include a brief bit about your bio/background, not the long, drawn-out bios that you would use when people introduce you to speak. A standard letter closing, stating next steps and follow-up with the appropriate level of courteous, respect and etiquette, concludes the query letter.

Query letters can be very powerful. They can be the start of some very good media relationships and will once again help editors and reporters do their jobs. Do that, and your ability to use the media in your marketing mix will have a higher probability of success.

Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle of marketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at http://www.market-for-profits.com and http://www.1-800-inkwell.com, or e-mail him at al@market-for-profits.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.