How to Write Quality Query Letters: Write a Great Headline

The first line of your query letter is the most important line you’ll write. If you capture the reader’s interest with the first line, your chances of selling your article will improve dramatically. Every writer should take at least a little time to study copywriting and sales letters, because a query letter is essentially a sales letter. You are attempting to sell an article by writing a custom sales letter to a single potential publisher.

The best way to start off a query letter is to treat the first line like it was the headline for your article. Center it above the rest of the text and make it as provocative as possible. Try to match the style of your target publication when you write the headline. Cosmopolitan and Woman’s Day are both publications aimed at women, but their style and content are different. In most cases, you would want to write a different headline for your query letter if you were pitching it to one magazine rather than the other.

Beyond being provocative, the headline should give the editor some idea of the format and style of your article. For example, “Ten Ways to Smash Christmas Debt” would clearly be a list article while, “Do You Blow Your Christmas Budget?” could be a list but sounds more like a quiz or a series of questions and answers. Here are some provocative headlines from recent articles on the web. Note that the style of headline matches the style of the publication. Also remember that I am discussing the headlines, not the content of the articles.

After your headline, consider writing a subhead that provides additional information and clarity. A headline that is meant to attract attention is not always as informative as it is provocative. The subhead gives you a chance to explain the content of your proposed article. You want to capture the editor’s attention, and then you want to give them the essential flavor of your article before you move on to the meat of your query.

5 thoughts on “How to Write Quality Query Letters: Write a Great Headline

  1. Thanks for including my Dog Whisperer post as part of your list. I originally had the title as What Freelancers Can Learn From Cesar Millan, but many people may not be familiar with his real name. Changing it to The Dog Whisperer made a world of difference in terms of impact.

    Michael Kwans last blog post..What’s Up Wednesdays: Responsibility and Freedom

  2. John,
    In film music composing (at least in my part of the world) they have a saying that the song is only as good as the first two or three words and how they are stressed. This is very much true with letters/posts as well.

    The nine title examples you suggested are amazing. This is exactly what I fail to do from time to time (Did some experiments of late, though)


    Ajith Edasserys last blog post..Ten Unethical Blog Visitor Behaviors those are worse than George Bush Shoe-Throwing Episode!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>