One page query letter example

Some publications still take or require hardcopy proposals. Common sense dictates that such a query should not go over a page. But what does that look like? The proposal below fills out a single 8 1/2 by 12 inch piece of paper. It’s about 450 words, with 11 point type. If I were doing this one again I would cut out at least a hundred words. There is a quotation in the query that I really like, but I would now eliminate it for the sake of brevity. If you want the backstory on this proposal, read my comments below the query. It’s all rather nasty . . .


November 1, 2013

Editorial Department
Outside Magazine
400 Market St.
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

Article Proposal: Turning the Wild into Wilderness

Lewis and Clark live! (Or at least their modern counterparts.) Using four-wheel drive, GPS, digital cameras, and plain old fashioned brawn, men and women trek throughout the wildest parts of the West, cataloging resources of public lands. They seek to have areas like the Excelsior Mountains and the Pine Forest Range in Nevada designated “Wilderness,” thus protecting them for future generations. The original Corps of Discovery may be gone, but the spirit of exploration, infused now with the goal of preservation, lives on. Who is responsible for this?

In Nevada, Friends of the Nevada Wilderness put these inventory workers into the field. This one activity is just part of a larger campaign of environmental activism. At the height of the season, Friends may have over fifty paid staffers and volunteers across Nevada, part of five different crews, all moving toward the goal of Wilderness and the stewardship of both designated Wilderness and wild lands in general. Whereas Greenpeace sends their people out in boats, the Friends of Nevada Wilderness sends theirs out on foot, by pack train, and in 4WD trucks.

I propose a 3,000 word feature article on this organization, with an emphasis on what they do in the field, along with background on the Federal Wilderness Act, which next year marks its 50th anniversary. The Act initially protected nine million acres of land, but that has now grown to over 100 million. More importantly, it provided ordinary citizens a mechanism to protect tens of millions more.

“Wilderness is probably the most grass-roots oriented thing that has been ever been done by Congress,” says Shaaron Netherton, Executive Director of Friends. “If we want to see Wilderness designated, it’s really the citizens, local people who care, who generate support, talk about the area, get people excited about it, bring in their elected officials, that’s ultimately what moves forward on getting wilderness designated.”

A Wilderness designation is not without controversy. Wilderness status prohibits any kind of mechanized operation; even running a chainsaw is prohibited. Off road clubs, snowmobilers, and prospectors are excluded from Wilderness areas. My article would discuss, at least in passing, the views of groups like the Pacific Legal Foundation and Public Lands for the People.

I have the cooperation of Friends to write this article. Their extensive library of outstanding images is available, as well as access to different crew members. I have been out with two of their crews for an overnight visit, a longer tour could be done in the Spring. Lewis and Clark opened the West; groups like Friends are now preserving it.

Thank you for your consideration.

Tom Farley


At the time I wrote this, Outside Magazine required proposals in hardcopy. In their Writers’ Guidelines they requested authors to include a self addressed stamped envelope or SASE. I thought this was great because there was certainty involved. If rejected I would at least have something in the mail that would tell me to move on to soliciting another magazine. I pictured some unpaid intern at their New Mexico office, diligently stuffing envelope after envelope with rejection slips.

Alas, months went by and I heard nothing. I sent them a follow up letter and, again, nothing. What is the point of asking for an SASE if you are not going to use it? This shabby treatment does not fit such a fine magazine with an excellent history of writing. The writing community may be small, perhaps their feelings can be disregarded without thought, but I will never regard them them positively again.


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