Query letters are where the rubber meets the road in the freelance travel writing game. It pitches your story idea to an editor and requests the opportunity to write for him or her.
Here’s what good queries can do for you:
This seems like a tall order, especially to the novice travel writer. Yet this task does not seem so daunting when you consider that queries adhere to set formats. If you stick to the protocols you actually have a reasonable chance of having the editor buy your article.
(This assumes, of course, that your story idea is exciting and that your story proposal is well researched.)
I’ve studied and experimented with various query letter formats over the years. I’ve written thousands of queries. And I’ve read numerous ‘how to’ books about them.
After all the books I’ve read and reviewed over the past few years, here are three books about the art and craft of creating query letters that I can recommend to my readers:
I’m biased about this guide because I wrote it. But let’s move past that and examine my claim that this 117-page manual is the ultimate guide to writing query letters.
First, it’s the only book in existence dedicated solely to the art of writing travel queries.
Certainly if you purchase a book about travel writing, there will be some mention of query letters. But most of this coverage is cursory at best in these books.
The Complete Guide to Query Letters for Travel Writers is entirely about writing queries.
Second, this manual was published in 2014. It’s the most up-to-date reference available and covers the essential elements of successful query letters.
The third reason this book is an important reference is because it provides 20 sample queries that I actually used to sell articles to high quality, glossy print magazines. These are my exact pitches - unchanged.
Also included is an introduction to each query. For each letter, I explain my strategy and why I think it resulted in getting my article published.
After reading a few of my queries you’ll understand the exact process and format to use. In practical terms, you can use my actual letters to craft your own queries. Use my template and drop in your own story details.
In this book you’ll notice that I sometimes break the conventional rules. For example, some are very lengthy. Others are targeted at non-travel magazines. Yet they all sold!
I wrote this book for travel writers because my queries are highly
effective. They helped me sell more than 1,000 articles to magazines,
trade journals, specialty magazines, in-flights, on-boards, newspapers,
and online travel magazines.
Follow my advice and your queries will be effective, too.
Available in my bookstore in PDF format.
It's also available on amazon.com in the Kindle store.
This solid reference, at seven chapters and 228 pages, has plenty of useful information.
But first a friendly warning.
This is a generic reference and includes chapters aimed at Nonfiction Book Queries, Novel Queries, and Agent Queries. None of these are useful to aspiring travel writers.
Still, there are four chapters that include plenty of useful information, such as:
• How to pitch a great lead
• How to offer fresh ideas
• Who to contact
• Kill fees
• Following up with the editor
Overall, I’d rate this book with a B+ for travel writers, but still worth purchasing.
It’s available on amazon.com in paperback, and in the Kindle store.
Presented in Q & A format, this entertaining book guides the new writer through the querying minefield.
Weighing in at 208 pages, it fields 47 questions, along with concise answers.
Some of the questions ...
• Should I mail my query or email it?
• What if the writer’s guidelines say, “send clips”, but I don’t have any?
• Can I send the same query out to different publications?
• Why can’t I skip the query and just write the article for the magazine?
The second section of the book lists 24 queries that actually worked for the writers, meaning they resulted in a sale and publication.
Note that most of these pitches are non-travel related. However, there are a few that are related to travel for magazines like Wines & Vines, Smithsonian, Midwest Airlines, USA Weekend, and NWA World Traveler.
These sample queries provide good background ideas. Additionally, the helpful comments from the writers provide further insight. There are also comments from the magazine editors on why they ran with the story.
Available in paperback form on amazon.com and in the Kindle store.
If you’re serious about getting into freelance travel writing, learning how to create a successful pitch is vital. And it helps to have a variety of resources readily available to help you.
Armed with a thorough understanding about crafting your queries, you will get published.
Here are a few related articles on this topic:
Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of www.PitchTravelWrite.com. Over the past ten years, he’s had more than 1000 articles published in 200 magazines, trade and specialty journals, in-flights, on-boards, blogs and websites and has traveled on assignment around the U.S. and to dozens of international destinations.