Infamous and all-powerful, the query letter is your ticket to fame and fortune, if you know how to use it. 😉
Today I’m going to teach you how to structure your query letter in a way that will make your prospective publishers take the bait.
First, let’s discuss what is a query letter…
In a nutshell, a query letter is sent to publishers or media outlets as an offer of expert information, which they then can spread to their readership — your target audience. This is an engine that can drive a lot of your efforts to be considered an expert in your niche.
For example, let’s say you wanted to be an expert writer in the business-to-business technology landscape. So you decide to send a query letter to magazines in that field, like B2B or Wired, and you say, “Hey, I’ve got an interesting article for your readers. Can I publish it in your magazine?”
Their response, “Sure thing, we’ll publish that,” and they include your byline at the end of the article.
Then your target audience reads your article and say to themselves, “Wow, this Joshua Boswell guy is really, really smart. We should hire him to do our writing. We should hire him to do our marketing efforts. We should hire this guy to help us with our communication stuff.”
And that’s the point of the query letter. You send it out. You get published or you get an interview or a TV appearance. Then your target audience reads that, watches that, listens to that, and is inspired by the amazing information you have in your head… and wants to hire you.
Query letters can even work for books. Book publishers like query letters where you basically propose a book. This is an extremely versatile marketing technique.
So how do you create this thing? There are four key points to follow.
Point 1: Introduction
If you’re going to do an interview, how do you open that interview? What’s your headline to go out and grab people? Your opening statement? What’s the title of this thing? What information will it cover? The opening paragraph? The first bit of information?
That’s your introduction.
It’s like writing a sales letter. You’ve got to reach out to people. You’ve got to have a headline that grabs their attention and pulls them in. Maybe you dive right into the action of the story, right into the middle of the conflict… This is your actual introduction.
So in the first 1 or 2 paragraphs you describe the actual material that you would present in this piece of expert information — your article, interview, blog post, seminar, or whatever it may be. That’s the introduction of your query letter.
Point 2: Why Should They Care?
Next, answer the question, “Why should I care?”
On the other end of this letter sits a publisher, an executive producer, an expert blogger, whoever controls the strings of what gets delivered through this media outlet. And what they want to know is, why should they care? Why should they give a rip about what you’re sharing or how you’re sharing it.
The best way to answer this… focus on their audience. In other words, they should care because their readership, their listeners, their viewers, should take great interest in the information you’re offering. This means you’re going to have to do a little bit of homework. You’re going to have to find out who is reading their stuff or watching their program.
Of course, you need to know this anyway. If you’re doing this to become an expert in a given field, it doesn’t make any sense to share your expertise with a group of people that aren’t going to hire you or need your services. You need to find out who this audience is and what keeps them up at night, anyway.
The second section, 1 or 2 paragraphs, is about why they should care. What will this do for them? What’s in it for them?
Point 3: Why you?
The third section is a really, really important one. Here you explain why they should hire you.
Why are you the right person to write this article? Why are you the right person to do this interview? What are your credentials, your background, your history, your insight? What are the results you’ve produced in your years in this given field? What do you have to bring to the table? What’s your USP?
To expand upon our B2B tech example from before, you might say something like this:
“I’m writing about business technology because I’ve got a background in that field. I used to own a technology company that built custom websites and database applications.
“I went on to write for companies like Google, Sony, Verizon, and Microsoft… all these major technology firms. Through that experience I crawled inside of all these companies and I figured out what was wrong with their communication and with their writing.
“I know how to solve this problem and that’s why I’m writing this article: I want to help your readers produce more sales, get more traction, have better content, have better social engagement, and more!”
And of course you end the section with the purpose of your particular package.
Point 4: Close
Your close is very, very simple.
It’s 1 or 2 paragraphs long, and it should include things like timing: “I can get this done in 1 or 2 weeks.”
And the length of your piece: “I estimate that this will be a 1,400-word article” or “a 20-minute interview”.
And then you call them to action…
“Now, sir, the ball is in your court. If you really want your readership, your viewership, your seminar attendees to have all these great benefits, to have access to this information and all my years of experience, then get in touch with me and we’ll begin the project. You can see I’ve already got it started. I know the big ideas. I know the outlines and I’m ready to deliver you this information.”
That’s the structure. The introduction, why they should care, why you should be the person to do it, and then a nice, solid close — contact information, a call to action, and lay it out for them.
The whole thing should be preferably one page, generally no more than two pages.
So write your query letter. Tell them they’ve got to get on the stick and hire you, or at least publish you or invite you to their event. And get recognized as the expert you are.
Stay tuned for the next article in which I’ll explain what to do before you sit down to write a query letter, and how to make it the most effective after you’ve got it written.