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What is a Query?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 17, 2024
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A query is a concise memo submitted to an editor by a writer seeking publication. It is basically an inquiry to see whether the writer's work is of interest to a particular publication. A query briefly details a writer’s experience and knowledge of the subject matter, and gives a summary or synopsis of the article the writer hopes to have published. An approximate word count for the proposed article or feature is also generally included.

A query, or query letter, is an opportunity for a freelance writer to showcase his or her work and to exhibit the ability to make a point in as few words as possible. It gives an editor a chance to gauge the writer’s professionalism, skill, knowledge, and writing style. A query should generally be one page or less if a writer hopes the entire letter will be read. Editors are notoriously busy and limited for time.

When crafting a query, a writer should “hook” the reader, in this case the editor, and move the page along with vivid use of language that entices the editor to want more, to continue reading. However, it is never a good idea to insert a teaser, hoping to make the editor curious so he or she will contact the writer. Editors need to know what to expect and want full details about a story, article, or feature, so they can make sure it is a good fit for the publication.

A query should briefly describe the writer’s relevant education, experience, and expertise or special knowledge of the subject matter. It should also give a detailed summary of the work. A query should also express the reasons a writer feels the work would be a good fit for the publication, why it is valuable to readers, and how it is different from other articles on the same topic.

For example, if a writer hopes to write an article on bathing a dog for a pet magazine, this is a subject that has likely been covered. The writer must craft the query to clearly illustrate how his or her article differs from similar titles, or show how it addresses different points or otherwise presents the topic from a different angle.

Many publications require a query before agreeing to read a complete manuscript, so a writer should take great care when writing a query. Producing a great query letter takes almost as much effort as writing the actual article.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon270133 — On May 21, 2012

I received an Affidavit of court costs regarding a foreclosure. After that I received A Motion to Withdraw from the bank. Does that mean the court costs are null and void since they are withdrawing?

By anon82200 — On May 05, 2010

I am a fresher in Engineering, and i have joined as SQL Data base administrator. can you please suggest to me some certification courses that i can take up to improve my technical skills.

By pannemsan — On Feb 03, 2010

can i know about polyester canvas fabric manufacturing process.

By whamic — On Jul 05, 2009

Out of the box...500GB portable hard drive installed successfully. How do I begin transferring files?

By motorola2008 — On Apr 11, 2008

I own a GMS cell phone but it is not in use and therefore not linked with a service provider. Can I purchase a prepaid international SIM card and use this phone in Europe even though there is no service


By lorna — On Dec 11, 2007

Hi! just recently joined wisegeek, I need some help and advice regarding my job. Currently I am working as a secretary in our office but my boss wants me to become his personal assistant. Sounds good... but the thing is I am not good enough in that position. So I'm thinking of getting a short course but I don't know what to take up or what it should be the course to take? I really want to improve myself.

Can you please advise me what am I supposed to do?



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