Magazine Query Letter: What Should You Include

When writing a magazine query letter how much info should you include about your idea (and what else should you include)? Here's the scoop.
Publish date:

Q: Every time I start to write a magazine query letter, I seem to write an entire synopsis of a work. How do I know where to stop? — Adora Mitchell Bayles

Blue Question Mark

A: This is an extremely common question. Most writers (myself included) can babble on about their brilliant ideas (which we all have many) and just don't know where to stop, particularly in query letters. But there are a few rules you can follow to keep it brief and to the point.

Query letters should be no more than one page. Typically, shorter is better. You'll need room for your qualifications and your details (how many words you believe the piece will be, how long it'll take you to finish, where the editor can find your clips, etc.). This leaves, at most, one-half page for your intro (lead) and brief synopsis.

Both the intro and synopsis should be no more than 3-4 sentences each. That's all an editor really needs to know whether or not the idea is a fit for his publication. If you can't slice it down to that, you don't have a strong focus to your piece and need to hone your idea.

Because of email, editors receive queries at an unprecedented rate and have little time to rummage through them. To give yourself the best chance at catching their attention and getting a fair shake, follow the rules above. It shows that you're a professional and have done your homework.

Thanks for visiting The Writer's Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.


Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian's free Writer's Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter
Listen to Brian on: The Writer's Market Podcast

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.


Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a lazy poem.


Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.


Shook vs. Shaked vs. Shaken (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use shook vs. shaked vs. shaken on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 30

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an exit poem.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: New Online Courses and Manuscript Critique

This week, we’re excited to announce courses in blogging and memoir writing, manuscript critique services, and more.