query letter or quick email?

The conventional wisdom when submitting an article proposal to a magazine is to first submit a query letter to the editor.  These letters have a standard format which includes the hook, why this magazine, and why you (qualifications).

I’m beginning to question the need for these standard query letters.

In my short history as a freelance writer, I’ve submitted articles and been published in Blue Water Sailing and Cruising World.  For both of these magazines, I sent a quick email to one of the editors saying something like:

I have a 1000 word article on sailing around Antigua I think you might be interested in. I also have photographs to accompany the story. Please let me know if you’re interested and I’ll email the manuscript and photos.

These quick, informal emails worked.

In February I took a travel writing class that introduced me to the concept of writing a query letter.  As an assignment for this class, I wrote a 2000 word article on visiting Saba via sailboat. Using the professional, freelance writer approach, I drafted a query letter which I sent to two magazines.  See below.

Dear Ms. Egolf,

I gripped the door handle with white knuckles, waiting for themomentwhen the car would jump the guardrail and plunge 1000 feet down to the Caribbean Sea.  My visit to Saba, an island known for its pristine natural beauty and biodiversity, began on a steep and winding road not mentioned in the guidebooks.

I would like to introduce your seasoned Caribbean travelers to a side of Saba few visitors experience.  Dubbed the “Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean,” Saba lives up to its name both above and below sea level with hiking trails that wind through the island’s rainforest and a marine park teeming with aquatic life.  Your readers will meet the island’s inhabitants, descendants of the original Dutch settlers, and the free roaming goats which are well-suited to Saba’s rocky terrain.  They will get a glimpse of the island’s history, as well as a sidebar outlining how to get to and from Saba, accommodations and dining options.

My Caribbean-focused features have appeared on the pages of *Blue Water Sailing* and *Cruising World*, with my most recent article appearing in the May 2010 issue of *Cruising World.*  I lived and traveled throughout the Bahamas and the eastern Caribbean on my 27-foot sailboat from 2006 to 2009 and my writing draws from those experiences, which include many off-the-beaten path destinations.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  If you would like to share my story with your readers, I can provide a 1000 word piece with photos that would fit well in the Travel Tales section of *Islands*.

No takers. I have another story on sailing in Stockholm’s archipelago which I have sent a query letter to the editors at Sailing Magazine.  If I get no response, I may go back to sending quick, informal emails. Based on my (albeit short) track record, they seem to produce more results than the query letters.

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2 responses to “query letter or quick email?

  1. My articles have been taken via emails as well. Even the book publisher I’m submitting to, just wants a quick email with some sample chapters. Who’s really got the time to read letters anymore, anyway? I vote for emails.

  2. I hate query letters…it actually stumped me from sending anything out at all to editors…maybe I should go your route and rethink the approach! 🙂

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