Search This Blog

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Month of Templates: A Trade Query

I usually prefer to use LOIs, or letter of introduction, when pitching trade magazines. However, in some instances I will send a query instead. Here's one that recently worked for me; my comments about it appear in red:


Dear Christine:

As an ACE-certified trainer, you work a variety of clients. Some are new to working out and simply want to get into a healthy exercise groove; others are committed endurance athletes looking for an added edge or a way to round out their training program. But these athletes are also at a higher risk for injuries. Distance runners in particular are susceptible to developing conditions like plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, and Achilles tendonitis that keep them off the roads. [My lead shows that I already know something about the common injuries athletes are likely suffer. I could included some stats here, too, though--for example, that 4 out of 5 Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives.]

As a trainer, you can develop a plan to help these clients stay fit even when they can’t perform their exercise of choice. But what about the emotional impact of being unable to run (or bike, or swim)? A study published last year revealed that regular exercisers who experienced forced exercise withdrawal also had increased negative mood and fatigue. Another earlier study found that regular exercisers experienced depressed mood and fatigue in as little as a week without their thrice-weekly workouts. [I'm letting her know I've done my homework, and hopefully making the case for the topic. And note that I'm focusing on what trainers can do because trainers are the readers of the publication, not the clients themselves.]

“Buzz-Killed: Helping Clients Deal with Exercise Withdrawal” will explain the link between regular exercise and elevated mood and decreased anxiety, and more importantly, help regular exercisers manage the emotional changes that can occur during a forced layoff. I plan to interview sports psychologists like Jack Lesyk, Ph.D., director of the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology for this piece, as well as ACE-certified trainers who have trained athletes dealing with time-off due to injuries; I’ll also report on recent research in this area. A possible sidebar will include a list of emotional symptoms severe enough to warrant your client (or yourself) talking to a mental health professional. [I've provided a working title, described how I plan to approach this piece, and listed the types of experts I plan to interview. (And I did use Lesyk and three ACE-certified trainers for the story.) I've promised to report on recent research because I know this magazine cites sources, research studies, etc. And I've suggested a sidebar, giving the editor a "package" instead of a story.]

Interested in this story as a feature for ACE Certified News? I estimate 1,000 words for this piece, but that’s flexible depending on your needs. In addition to being an ACE-certified personal trainer, I’ve been a freelance journalist for 12+ years, and have written for more than 50 national magazines including Runner’s World, Redbook, Health, Self, Fitness, Shape, and Chicago Athlete. As a runner of 20+ years who has faced injuries and forced time off, I believe my recent experience will help bring a unique perspective to this piece (for example, I found that cross-training helps me cope, but doesn’t produce the same “buzz” as a run), and hope you’ll find it’s appropriate for a future issue of your magazine. [I have to say that I love my ISG; my background and personal experience make me the perfect writer for this piece, right? The editor sure thought so!]

Christine, please let me know if you have any questions about this story idea or would like to see clips of my work; otherwise, I’ll follow up on it in a few weeks. Many thanks for your time, and I hope we’ll have the chance to work together soon. [This is my standard closing language. Note that I tell her I'll follow up soon.]

All best,

Kelly James-Enger


Readers, what about you? Do you prefer LOIs or queries when pitching trade or custom magazines, or do (like me) use both approaches?


  1. I haven't tried querying any trade magazines yet, although that is one of my goals for this year. Why did you decide to use a query instead of an LOI for this one? Because you had a story idea ready? Why do you feel that LOIs are better for trade magazines?


  2. Hi, Laura--

    I decided to use a query because I knew the editor already had a stable of writers (from checking the blyines of articles) and wanted to show her I could come up with ideas for her, not just run with "her" assignments.

    But usually, I prefer to use LOIs because trades cover a more limited scope of story ideas, most of which are generated by the editor(s). In that case, they're looking for talented freelancers(hopefully with a background in the subjects they cover) to write about them.

    When choosing trade magazines to query, look for those that you have some background in/knowledge of and highlight that in your LOI. Good luck!

  3. Thanks for the detailed response. That makes a lot of sense.


  4. I disagree with you when it comes to using LOI's for trade magazines. I find that they're usually ignored, whereas a pointed query usually will hit the bull's eye (and I've been writing for trades for eight years). I suggest trade magazine writers study editorial calendars and preview their intended trade. Then, find sources and query from there. Otherwise, they'll find that their letters will hit the slush pile--especially in this economy where even trades are cutting back on advertising and article space.

  5. Hi, Mrs. Books--thanks for your comment. I've actually had success with *both* queries (as in this one, above) and LOIs with trade magazines. Of course your mileage may vary and every freelancer takes a different approach. I do think you make a good point about using more queries in a tight market.