Every publication is different so every query letter should fit that particular magazine. But some general rules emerge when looking through different magazine’s guidelines. Here are several instructions, clipped from different sites, that, taken as a whole, should guide you to a proper query:
Pay close attention to the format, length, and style of our stories both in print and online.
Focus your query. Your pitch should be brief, organized, and to the point. Queries should not exceed a few hundred words in length. A destination is a topic, not the makings of an article. Your pitch should explain the angle you would pursue and why our members will be interested.
We are looking for strong, carefully researched, entertaining articles. We have no team of fact checkers – there’s just a small editorial staff – so correctness must depend, for the most part, on the writer’s accuracy. More than just a body of facts, these articles should have a theme or clearly focused thesis around which the article is built, leading the reader into the experience or subject.
[Depending on the magazine’s tone] Queries should present a clear, original, and provocative thesis, not merely a topic or idea, and should reflect familiarity with the magazine’s content and tone.
Send queries by email. The subject line of your email should clearly state the section for which you are pitching and the topic/angle. Pitches should be sent individually; please do not include multiple pitches within one email.
Query by email or letter. Enclose a representative sample of your published work, or if you haven’t been published, mention your qualifications for writing the article.
Pitch early. Print editions are planned a year in advance and assigned six months in advance. Online editions are assigned three months in advance. We do not buy stories unless we plan to publish them in a specific print issue or online edition.
[For more demanding publications] In addition to pitching a brilliant, well-developed idea, you should also have substantial clips to demonstrate your writing ability.
Do not query about subjects that we have covered in the last three years.
As to etiquette, because our small staff is primarily occupied with editing, it may take us a while to respond to queries.