Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 4, 2010

Magazine Query Checklist

1.    Is the letter in standard business format?  Does it look professional?  Just because you write for children is no reason to put teddy bears on everything.

2.    Do you have the correct editor’s name and title?  Editors move around; take the time to call and politely ask the operator if the person you want to reach is still there and check their title while you’re at it.

3.    Does your letter contain your contact information?  I have seen this many times.  Also mention that you are a member of the SCBWI if you are one.  Editors realize that most SCBWI members have taken the time to educate themselves, before contacting them.

4.    Is the title catchy?  Does it match the tone and length of other articles in this publication?  Keep in mind ‘tricks for titillating titles’:  alliteration and assonance; rewording of clichés; play on words, lists; shocking statements; a plain label; a question; compare and contrast; rhyming, etc.

5.    DO YOU LEAD WITH YOUR ‘HOOK’?  Ask:  What is the most interesting/surprising/original thing I have to say?  That is your ‘hook.’  It can be a quote, a statement, a question.  The one thing it can’t be is boring.

6.    Do you expand on your hook?  Do you express, in a few compelling sentences, the who, when, what why, and where?

7.    If you piece also has a time hook, say so.  Could it be published to coincide with the anniversary of a historical event?  Could it be linked to a holiday?  Consider that magazines may work as much as a year in advance.

8.    Have you figured out how your article might be illustrated – photos?  Artwork?  Graphics?  Visuals are important to editors.  You MUST have an idea of where to get this material.  If you can’t supply it, then don’t assume the magazine will employ a professional to take photos for your article, because most will not.  Being able to take your own photos is extremely helpful.

9.    Have you considered the readers age and whether they would have the background, interest, and ability (if it is an activity) for your query?

10.  Have you explained why you are the person to write this article?

11.   Are relevant clips (if you have them) mentioned and enclosed?

12.  Did you thank the editor for their time?  Did you include a SASE for a response?

13.  Did you include other requested materials?  Some magazines ask for an outline and or a bibliography.  Be sure to include you name on all other pages.

14.  IS THE QUERY LETTER NO MORE THAN ONE PAGE?  Make sure you get to the point.  Remember if you go on too long the editor will have doubts as to whether you can write a magazine article that is usually around 500 words or less.


  1. Hi Kathy, and other readers,

    I have a humorous Halloween story about a witch and two gremlins. I’ve thought about submitting it to a magazine, but much of the humor relies on insults like “You ugly little toad.” The negative language is the main point of the story that has a loving ending. Is this inappropriate for most magazines aimed at 4 to 6 year olds?

    thanks, Mary


  2. All very good suggestions. Thank you for the time you take to help writers.


    • Yousei!

      There you are. It seems like ages since we talked. How’s the writing going?



      • Not well. This summer has been crazy. Lots of complaints, but I’ll save you from them. I did join a once a month writing group. We should have another meeting this or the next weekend. Once school starts, September 7, I am looking forward to doing a lot more, especially writing. Thanks for asking. Hope you had a great summer.


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