May 31, 2012

Dear John, I Need to Write a Query Letter

by Kimberly Rae

A great query letter needs only two things: a hook sentence at the beginning that catches the editor’s attention, and the information that editor needs to know if your article would make a good fit for his/her magazine.

If you're nervous about getting started, you may want to try publications that do not pay first (they get less flooded with query letters). Sally Stuart's Christian Market Guide lists not only the publications, but the editor's name, e-mail address, and what they are looking for as far as topic and word count.

Here's the order I use for writing queries (see the sample below for formatting and contact information, etc.):
  1. The hook (don't start with fluffy stuff, jump right into a question or statement that will catch the editor’s eye)
  2. More detail about the article/book and what benefit readers will get out of it
  3. Any important details like word-count, whether first rights or reprint rights are offered, etc.
  4. A clear question, such as "Would you be interested in using this article in your magazine?"
  5. My credentials—how many times I've been published, or what experiences I've had that make me knowledgeable on the topic
  6. Sincere gratitude and a closing comment

(The more concise you can be, the better--white space is your friend when it comes to queries.)

Here's an example of a query I used recently for a magazine article (if you're like me and visuals are much more helpful than explanation):

Kimberly Rae
mailing address
e-mail address

Editor’s Name
Magazine Name


Dear Mr. so-in-so,

The Bangladeshi boys were excited about going to Bible camp, learning about the heroes of the faith.  When the trip was stopped, their leaders beaten, and the boys taken to prison, they realized that this year, instead of learning about the heroes, they had the chance to be like the heroes.  So, like Paul and Silas, they sang in the prison, and scratched Bible verses onto the walls for future prisoners to find.

In Jail for Jesus, based on true events, is attached for consideration for your Heroes of the Faith issue.  It has been published once before, in Guide magazine (2010) so reprint rights are offered.

Would you be interested in using In Jail for Jesus! in Cadet Quest magazine? I have been published over 150 times, including once before in Cadet Quest.

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Kimberly Rae

Now, don't start freaking out if you haven't been published 100 times or whatever. If you've been published once, say so and tell them what and where. If you've never been published, tell them that you regularly speak on this subject, or that you believe readers will be encouraged about your article because _____. Just don't go for the new-kid vote, as in "I've never been published before and I really want to get published, so..."

Well, are you excited about getting started or overwhelmed and want to give up already?  I promise it gets easier the more you do it. Writing queries is a learn-able skill, like driving, so once you get it mastered, it becomes second nature.  It's the starting that's the hardest, so don't get discouraged—just get started!


Kimberly Rae has lived in Bangladesh, Kosovo, Uganda and Indonesia. She now writes from her home in Lenoir, North Carolina, where she loves to write outside overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her first novel, Stolen Woman, a Christian suspense/romance story on international human trafficking, is available in paperback and on e-book. Find out more at or read about Kimberly’s overseas adventures on her blog at

Meet Kimberly online at her website, blog or Facebook.


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