A few of my writing friends got me thinking about letters of introduction — one because she mentioned them on her blog and another because she talked about moving and introducing herself to the editor of the local parenting magazine.
I’ve been focusing my writing energy on putting words on the page, but I realize that the letter of introduction is another type of writing that deserves some focus.
I found a great article about the Letter of Introduction (LOI) by Shelley Divnich Haggert that helped me realize two things:
- Editors have a list of themes, topics or articles that they need…the query you submit or the article you submit may or may not meet those needs.
- If you provide an editor with clips and your specialty (e.g., nutrition, finances, etc. ) he or she will know what types of articles you would be capable of writing and can send the assignment to you.
I recommend the entire article, but here are a few key paragraphs:
This method shows an editor that you are more interested in what he wants for his publication than what you want for your portfolio. You won’t presume to know what’s good for his publication — you want him to tell you what he thinks is suitable. While it’s great to write the things we want to write about, it’s far more profitable to be writing what the editors want.
Letters of introduction are great marketing practice. Freelance writers quickly learn that writing is only half of their job; marketing and promotion are just as important. Your willingness to approach editors with confidence will come in handy later, when you find yourself searching for an agent or writing press releases to promote your book.
This is not to say that one shouldn’t send queries, or even unsolicited articles. It’s just another option. And, what’s the worst that can happen? You send an LOI and never hear from that editor. But, that’s no different from the worst case scenario if you send a query or unsolicited article that doesn’t get a response. In some ways sending an LOI that doesn’t get a response is even better than submitting a query or article that goes unanswered — less time and effort invested.
The LOI is one more tool that I’m happy to be placing in my toolkit.