Guest Blogger: Chuck Sambuchino

We’re pleased to have Chuck Sambuchino joining us today. He is a freelancer as well as the editor of Guide to Literary Agents. He will be presenting at the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop Conference in October. Visit his blog at www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog.

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Freelance Article Writing:
The Query in 3 Parts
If you want to write freelance articles, you’ll be sending plenty of queries out to editors. Although there is no “perfect” or “surefire” way to structure a query, I have adopted and slowly tried to refine a three-part approach that seems to work pretty well.
No matter if you’re contacting an editor about writing for their magazine, newspaper or website, your number one tool is the query letter. You have one page to explain to editors what the idea is, why it will be a good fit for their publication, and why you’re a good writer for the assignment. Let’s dig deeper.

Paragraph 1
Hook an editor right away with the idea. You can do this several ways:

You can start off with an amazing fact. “Not only does Alaska have the country’s highest percentage of low birth weight babies, the percentage is actually going up yearly.” You’re trying to tell the editor This is news. This is important.

It might not have to be an amazing fact, but rather just an interesting tidbit. “There are 87 varieties of organic crops grown in the United States, but there’s only one farm producing 12 of these—Morganic Corporation.
You can start in media res—in the middle of a story. “It was 2:14 a.m. when a drunk driver smashed into the bedroom of Mike Edson’s condo and took the life of his wife.”
Just grab our attention however you can. Consider this example. “Last year’s dreaded recession brought countless white wedding plans to a screeching halt. According to David Bridal’s recent national survey, 75% of American brides-to-be are searching high and low for a way to still have the wedding of their dreams – without spending a fortune.”

Paragraph 2
This is where you take a step back and start to talk about the specs of the article itself. I typically start this paragraph with “I propose an article on …”
Here are things you want to address/include:
· Estimated length (word count)
· Targeted section of the magazine. Where will this article appear in the magazine?
· What kind of story is it? Feature? Profile? Column?
· The slant, if it needs explaining. For example, let’s say you hear about a local woman who’s planting a rose in town for every soldier that dies fighting the war on terror. You could pitch an article about her to a gardening magazine, a military/patriotic magazine, and a local interest magazine. But each one with one, you will have a different focus—a different slant.
· Do you have access to people you will interview? If you are proposing to profile famous screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for Creative Screenwriting, you will need to say that you have access to him somehow. Do you want to sit down with Kevin Garnett? How can you secure an interview?
· Do you have access to or will you provide art/pictures? If you’re writing for Popular Woodworking or Ohio Game and Fish, will you be taking your own photos to provide with the piece? You increase your chances of success, if so.
· Any quotes—or at least the names of whom you would interview. If you are writing a piece on low birth weight, to continue that example, you should quickly list the names of people you will consult and interview for the piece. With luck, you’ve already spoken with one and have a quote you can include in the query.

Paragraph 3
Explain why you are an ideal writer to compose this piece.
Do you have any qualifications of relevance? For example, if you’re writing for Men’s Fitness, do you hold any degrees or certifications in the health field?
Have you written about this subject before?
What publications have you written for, if any?
If you have enclosed or attached clips (previously published samples of your writing), say so. You can attach PDF scans of a piece, or simply paste a link to an online article. Ideally, you want to show them clips that have some comparison to what you want to write about. For instance, if you want to do a profile of gymnast who is considered the most promising eight-year-old in the world in her field, then do you have any sample profiles for the editor to see?
Keep in mind that if you have no clips to include, don’t embellish or exaggerate. Just skip the clips part. Finally, thank the editor for considering the submission and wrap up with “Sincerely, (Name).” If you’ve pasted links to your articles online, you should past the links under your name.

by Chuck Sambuchino
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Chuck will be joining us again tomorrow when he will share a sample query letter.

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