Selling Ice to an Eskimo: The Art of Writing Query Letters

Posted on June 21, 2014 by John C

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Imagine pulling up in front of an igloo during a winter storm in a semi truck. Your cargo consists of large blocks of ice. Whoever is dwelling in the igloo would be crazy to buy ice when there is no need for it. An effective salesperson succeeds in selling ice to the igloo occupants by convincing them they can’t live without it.

How does this relate to writing? As a freelance writer, you can find yourself in a similar position to the ice salesperson when it comes to developing content. Freelance writers are tasked with contacting editors, business owners and other potential clients and convincing them they need their services. The tool of choice for this sales effort is a query letter or e-mail.

Query letters are a writer’s sales pitch. Their whole purpose is to market a writer to a prospective client and initiate a working relationship with them.

To open that door, you need to consider these principles when composing a query letter:

Educate yourself on your client’s needs

A classic mistake beginning writers make is not identifying the right audience before sending out their query letter. You can smack an idea over the outfield fence and still not reach home plate because it is not the right fit for the client you targeted. If a potential client runs a dental practice, for example, they probably will only want topics related to dental care for their blog or website. Educate yourself on a client’s needs before sending out ideas. Research for your query letter as much as you would a regular writing assignment.

Focus on the meat and potatoes

No one goes to a fine restaurant with the intent of filling up on bread. Enjoying the main course is the end goal. Query letters should focus on the main course – the central idea inspiring a writer to reach out to a potential client. A writer should explain the idea clearly and concisely in their first paragraph. If you have no substance to offer, there is no reason for a client to spend time on the rest of the letter.

Showcase your credentials

Offering a good idea is only a first step. You must also convince a client you’re the right person to write about it. Query letters should showcase your expertise in the niche in question. List relevant publications and websites where you have published past work. Detail social media platforms where you are active and how that has helped past clients gain exposure. Your experience will help create an air of authority. Remember to highlight skills and experience in a humble way. Many clients can be turned off by arrogant writers.

John C is a professional writer and editor who has written articles and blog posts dozens of websites and publications for more than a decade. His current goal this summer is to branch out into the exciting world of fiction writing.


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