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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Write your Own LOI: A Template to Get you Started

Ready to write your own LOI? Here’s a template to get you started; this letter opened the door and led to a long-term relationship with this publication. [My comments about each section are noted in the brackets in blue.]

Dear Ms. Alley:

I’m a friend and colleague of Kristin Baird Rattini, a fellow freelancer, and am writing to express my interest in writing for IGA Grocergram. (Kris and I recently had lunch—she’s here in the States for the holidays.) [The first paragraph of your LOI should catch the editor’s attention—if you have an “in,” use it here.]

I’ve been a fulltime freelance journalist for the past seven years. Since then, my work has appeared in more than fifty national magazines including Redbook, Parents, Business99, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Continental, Fitness, Shape, and Good Housekeeping. I’m also the author of two books, Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create Your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money (The Writer Books, 2003) and the novel, Did you Get the Vibe? (Strapless, 2003) and have two more coming out in the next year. [This paragraph includes an overview of my writing background. In retrospect, though, I would switched the above and below paragraphs--the editor is probably going to be more interested in my trade magazine work than my consumer magazine work--or my novel! Hello!]

I’ve also written for trade magazines including Chamber Executive, where I wrote profiles, news stories, and business articles, and I also draft marketing pieces, newsletters, brochures, and other pieces for companies including The Pampered Chef. [Here I showcase the fact that I’ve written for other trade magazines, as that’s the type of magazine I’m pitching. But again, I should have made this is the second paragraph of the LOI.]

A little more about me: I received my bachelor’s degree in rhetoric before attending law school. I also practiced law for five years before changing careers to write full-time, and my legal training has given me a unique perspective on the importance of accuracy and clarity in written communication. [My background is unique, and this will hopefully help me stand out in the editor’s mind. But you know what? I was working at Trader Joe's at the time...I should have mentioned that I had experience working in the retail grocery environment! Duh. I did tell the editor that when she contacted me, though. And it did give me a leg up on writers who might not know what "end cap," "reefer," or "POS" means.]

If you’re looking for writers, I’d love to discuss your publication’s needs with you, and send you some clips via snail mail. I’ll follow up on this letter after the holidays, but please let me know if you have any questions about my background or experience. [Here I let her know that I’m happy to send clips, and that I’ll follow up on my pitch soon. That way when I do, hopefully she won't think I'm a pest--and will learn that I do what I say I will.]

Thank you very much, and have a wonderful holiday season.

Very truly yours,
Kelly James-Enger

So here's the thing...this certainly isn't a perfect LOI by any means, but it worked for me. In a future post, I'll include another template so you can see how I change my approach for another type of market.

What about you? Do you ever use LOIs? Have you had success with them?


  1. This is great, Kelly. Any advice for those with a few less (or a lot less) credentials? Only a modest about of publications or no college degree perhaps?

  2. Hi, Carol--
    I think that regardless of your experience (though you're going to at least have clips to pitch a trade or custom mag), you need to highlight whatever connection you have with the market you're pitching. If you worked in a doctor's office, for example, you probably are familiar with a lot more medical terminology than most of us and you could use that in a pitch to any medical-related trade magazine. The key is to make the editor think, "hmmm, this writer sounds like a good fit for us."

    I don't think editors care about college degrees per se (and if my bachelor's wasn't in rhetoric, I wouldn't have even mentioned it)...the most important issue is your ability to report and write.

  3. I'm assuming this was sent via e-mail since you mentioned sending clips by snail mail. Do you think this is a reliable method since e-mail from unrecognized sources can go straight to trash or an editor might just delete before even reading it? Would snail mail for the LOI be worth the postage?

  4. Good question, Heidi. My experience has been that most editors do prefer email LOIs, but I also use a fairly detailed subject line (i.e. "experienced freelancer with background in health writing introducing myself" or "Kris Rattini suggested I get in touch" or something to catch the editor's attention. Then I follow up by email or phone two to three weeks later.

  5. Good info and really good advice I've had luck with LOI's fact the times they've worked they've turned into lasting relationships, perhaps because the editor knew more about me than what I ordinarily include in a query. Who knows? But, it's nice to know you don't always have to invest in a query to pick up a sale. Thanks for the reminder. I'll send one out today.

  6. Thanks for your reply, Kelly. I'm going to give this method a try again and see how it works out. I did send some out a few years ago but I remember not getting very many replies. Maybe it was my letter!

  7. I am really enjoying your blog, and I just used this post to help me craft an LOI for a local magazine. I am trying to carve out a writing career for myself and - even though I have had some things published - everything feels new. This was a huge help!

  8. Glad to hear it, Laura! Let me know what happens with your LOI. :)

  9. Just tried this one out Kelly. Thanks for the template, and for all the ones you're putting online this month! I sent a modified version of this to a trade mag where, like you, I have some industry experience, so I'll let you know how it works out. Thanks!!!

  10. You're welcome, Brittany--let me know what happens with it! :)

  11. Took the editor less than an hour to respond. Now I've just got to get some solid ideas ready to pitch! I thought I'd have more time! Crazy!

    Thanks again Kelly. You're awesome.

  12. That's great! Keep me posted...but get on those ideas first!

  13. So when you followed up on your letter (as you say you will do in the last paragraph), what does your follow up include? Specific story ideas? Just a short reminder that you're interested in writing for the publication? Something else entirely?

  14. Hi, Lisa--

    I typically follow up by phone, even if it means leaving a voicemail. I just say I'm calling to see if the editor received my email and has any questions about my background or experience. I also take that opportunity to ask if she'd like me to pitch specific ideas, or is looking for writers to cover particular subjects.

    Hope this helps!

  15. Thanks Kelly, very helpful. I just submitted an LOI to a publication that covers an industry I have work experience in. I've found two more in the same industry to introduce myself to, also, so those are next on my list.