How One Query Letter Got $6,000 in Assignments

Carol Tice

How one query letter got $6,000 in assignments.

It’s been nearly 6 years since this post was originally published — and it’s been one of my most popular ever. The need to write strong query letters has only grown in the years since, so I thought it would be a good time to put it out there again. Enjoy!–Carol

I often have freelance writers tell me they don’t think writing a query letter is worth the effort. They get a lot of rejections, and feel it’s basically a crapshoot…and so much easier to sign on to a content-mill dashboard for a guaranteed few bucks’ worth of work.

It’s true that querying isn’t a sure thing. But if you take the time to learn this skill, it can really help you move up and earn big.

I regularly get lucrative assignments off of query letters and guest post pitches, and I continue to believe querying is a vital skill for successful freelancers.

With so many writers turned off of queries, taking the time to learn how to write a compelling query letter is well worth the effort, as it makes you stand out in today’s marketplace. Querying can open doors when you don’t know anyone at a publication or company, and make a connection that could turn into an ongoing relationship.

For instance: I recently sent one query letter that got me $6,000 of assignments. And I’m reproducing it in full below.

The magic of multipitch

This query used one of my favorite strategies: Multipitch, or the technique of sending two or three story ideas in a single, one-page query letter.

Multipitch sort of reminds me of the multiball feature on old pinball machines. If you’re old enough to remember these, you’d load more than one ball onto the board, and then if you could hit it right, you’d get them all to activate and start scoring you points at once, multiplying your score.

In queries, multipitch multiplies the impact of your query letter — and also multiplies your possible earnings. Submitting more than one story idea shows:

  • You know how to be brief. In multipitch, each idea only gets one short paragraph. This impresses editors that you understand how to write short, which in this era of shrinking wordcounts is a valuable skill.
  • You have a lot of story ideas, not just one. This communicates instantly to the editor that you could join their list of go-to freelancers who can be relied upon to have a steady stream of quality story ideas. This is how you want to be viewed by editors.
  • You’re confident. You don’t feel a need to blather on and on about your ideas — you can sum up each one in a couple-three sentences. The format also requires a very short personal bio, which you feel OK about, too.
  • You could handle multiple assignments. Presenting several ideas at once telegraphs that you have the capability of taking on more than one assignment at a time from this publication — another key skill editors often seek.

There was one other factor that made this particular pitch even crazier…

Taking up the challenge

Here’s the part about this query win that really had me elated: When I sent in my pitch, I was told this outlet had never accepted an outside query before. All the story angles had up to that point been developed by the editor.

Instead of discouraging me, that news only made me more motivated to deliver strong pitches. I was hoping maybe one of my three ideas would make the grade.

I about fell over when the editor let me know all three pitches had been accepted, for a total of $6,000 in assignments.

Since this was my most lucrative single query letter ever, I decided it would be useful for readers to see exactly what this query letter looked like.

This pitch went to a major financial-services company that operates several business-information websites. The site I targeted publishes well-researched, 1,000-word articles. Pay is $2,000 per article. I initially reached out to the editor on Twitter and asked if it would be OK to pitch her.

My 3-idea pitch

To avoid having my editor inundated with queries, I’ve omitted some identifying details about this market and the sources I proposed.

This is what I sent the editor:

Dear [editor’s name]:

As I mentioned on Twitter, I am a longtime business writer with expertise in finance. Here are three ideas I think might be a fit for your site:

1)Why Now’s the Time for a Sale/Leaseback Deal – Conditions are ripe for companies to liberate cash by selling property and leasing it back. Known as “net leasing,” these deals can fund growth without a company having to seek bank or investor funding. Whether a company owns an office building, warehouse, or retail stores, net leasing allows it to operate in the same facility with a long-term lease and assurance there’ll be no disruption to operations. Another plus: sale/leasebacks get companies out of the property-ownership game and back to focusing on their core business. Net-lease is booming this year as companies are strapped for cash and investors like the guaranteed tenant that comes with the deal. For this story, I would interview several company finance managers who have recently done sale/leasebacks, as well as commercial-realtor experts and [source name], an online exchange for commercial property that company owners are looking to sell and lease back.

2) To Save More, Send Your Workers Home – A recent study from [well-known research house] shows mid-sized companies can save $11,000 per worker by letting them work from  home just half-time. Telecommuting has other benefits as well, including reduced absenteeism and increased productivity on work-from-home days, according to the report. That’s $1.1 million in savings for a company that puts 100 workers on part-time telecommuting schedules. With Congress passing legislation requiring more home-based work by government-agency employees, it’s a great time to examine how telecommuting can help businesses save money. For this story, I would talk to experts and business owners who’ve implement telework programs to glean best practices for making it work.

3) Starting a Joint Venture? Plan for Its End – Joint ventures often start with the best intentions, but a few years down the road, one or both parties may determine the partnership isn’t working. That’s when things can get sticky — unless the original agreement included careful planning for how the joint venture would be dissolved. For this story on how to structure a prudent joint venture agreement, I would speak with company finance executives who’ve been involved in recent JV partnerships that needed to be unwound, including one where planning was good and the process was fairly straightforward — and one where the agreement didn’t contemplate the breakup and problems were encountered. I’d also get recommendations from well-known business attorney [source name] on how to structure these deals. Readers would come away with concrete information on how to structure partnerships to protect their interests and prevent costly litigation or loss of vital assets created in the partnership.

My work has appeared in Entrepreneur magazine, Washington CEO, The Seattle Times and many other publications. You can view recent clips and my list of awards won at

Thanks in advance for considering my query.


–Carol Tice

I’d say one key element that helped this query succeed — which I often don’t see present in many queries I’ve reviewed for writers in my mentoring program and in our Freelance Writers Den query-review forum — is the research into the topic and citing of possible experts.

Editors tell me many queries seem lazy — they propose a vague idea without laying out a clear road map of who would be quoted and what information the story would contain. Including those specifics made this query stand out for my editor.

Final note: You’ll notice I have an unusual signoff. I believe developing a creative conclusion for your queries can help you stand out and get noticed. It’s worked well for me.

Had success lately with query letters? Leave a comment and tell us about your approach.

Query letters - reviews available in Freelance Writers Den


  1. Debbie Kane

    Thanks as always Carol, for your good advice. I have a partially-finished query right now that I’m inspired to complete. Do you typically tweet editors to ask permission to query? Any protocol for that?

    • Carol Tice

      It was a situation where I thought I recognized the editor’s name, and that we had both written for a common publication in the past, so I kind of had a talking point to ding her on Twitter. But I see nothing wrong with hitting them there as a first contact, especially if you see they’re very active in social media…or through LinkedIn, for that matter. Can be a nice casual way to introduce yourself — you can go on and just say — are you accepting pitches right now? If so how do you like them — mail, email, etc? I think there’s an unusual level of courtesy to inquiring about process that sets you apart. They may give you some tips on their pitch cycle and when they’ll next be making assignments.

  2. Ahlam Yassin


    The first thing that strikes me after reading your query letter is simply, you know what you’re talking about. You have a well-defined niche with a deep understanding of business finance. You’ve also pitched to a company that’s interested in this niche, a combination that increases chances of success. However, for many new writers, still trying to find their niche it’s a lot more muggy. I think it takes a lot practice, and as you said hard work.

    I really like the idea of a multi-pitch query. Again, it’s all about making the time. I’ve decided to cut up my month into different portions, 2-3 weeks getting paid work done to bring in some income and at least a week dedicated to learning new things about the craft.

    Thanks for writing this, and your continued support for new writers like myself. – ahlam

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Ahlam,

      You’re right. Carol knows what she’s talking about. But it doesn’t have to take years to learn how to write great query letters. Study examples like Carol’s and model that to write your own. You’ve got a good plan to focus on paid work and learning new skills. Don’t forget to make time for pitching and marketing, too.


  3. Wendy A.M. Prosser

    Thanks for reproducing your query letter here. I agree with Ahlam that building that kind of expertise takes time, unless you already have a background in the subject you intend to write about.

    • Carol Tice

      I agree it takes time, and obviously this is a specialized niche. But you can show this level of homework in any type of query — knowing your topic, looking into what experts you would talk to, finding study data. This approach works well for any kind of topic.

  4. Erika

    Carol – thanks so much for posting your whole letter here! It’s so great to read real-world examples. As someone who does a lot of PR pitching, one of the similarities is your offer of resources. We HAVE to do that in PR — no use pitching a great story if the reporter has to do all the work in finding the people he/she can interview. Reporters and editors are so busy – whatever you do in your pitch to show them you can save them time is great.

  5. Carol Tice

    I should add that of course, I continue to write for this outlet…that successful multipitch query set me up for an ongoing relationship with this market.

    One of the big differences that sets higher-earning freelancers apart is they get in a groove of writing for the same outlets on an ongoing, monthly basis. That means less marketing effort needed and less pitching cold, and more reliable income. One of the areas we’ll definitely be discussing at the Webinar.

    • John Soares

      Carol, you wrote an excellent query, and most importantly, it has led to continued high-paying assignments. And that’s a crucial key to being a successful freelance writer: landing the great assignments, but then getting those editors to come to you time and again with more of them.

      • Carol Tice

        Right on, John — I’m trying to encourage my mentees — and every writer I know — to WORK HARDER on their queries. They can be the ticket to thousands and thousands of dollars of work. So much of what I’ve reviewed — and what my editors tell me they see — looks very casually tossed-off. Along the lines of “I’d like to write about ‘natural health.'” Well, sure you would…but what about it, exactly?

        When you learn to develop sharply defined story angles and present the facts of why the story should be written now, you start to get a lot more ‘yes’ es on queries!

        • Bernard

          I think it’s worth mentioning the possible caveat that one of the reasons writers don’t put a lot of detail into pitches is for fear that the magazine would just take their idea and do it themselves and your services wouldn’t be needed. This chance of giving away your ideas in pitches is very real, especially if they’re really well developed with names of who you would interview etc. but not mentioned anywhere on this page, I’m surprised about that. What would be the best way to work in some kind of safety net for that?

          • Carol Tice

            Bernard, in 20+ years of doing these, I’ve perhaps suspected once that I had a story ripped off. Most editors are ethical.

            The thing is, if you don’t flesh out your pitch, the editor can’t see that you know how to execute the story. The trick is to make the case why YOU are the writer for the assignment.

            In general, editors don’t rip off ideas. I’ve actually been paid an idea fee in some cases, if they wanted to do it with someone else. The much bigger problem is that most writers don’t know how to develop salable ideas.

            And they don’t realize that if you saw that press release, the magazine probably did, too — and may have already had a similar story in the works. That happens a lot, but some writers like to be paranoid and believe they’re being ripped off.

            Ultimately, if you want to do this for a living, you have trust that you’re operating in an ethical publications world — and make your best case for why you’re the writer for the story.

  6. Donna Rodgers

    Hi Carol,

    My recent approach to sending queries is similar to yours. You’re right: I think most people pitch bits of an idea without providing substance of the article. Your example is awesome, and I applaud the work you’re doing to teach us fearlessness and tools of the trade.

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Donna,

      What a great way to describe Carol: Fearless. While a lot of writers, including myself, followed the get-a-writing-degree path, Carol disregarded that route, started writing, and never looked back.

      I agree. Being able to study a query from a pro with proof it paid well is super helpful and motivating.


  7. Katherine Swarts

    You make a point worth noting: well-polished queries aren’t for periodical writers only! While some successful freelance business writers (Peter Bowerman is noteworthy) got their start through the “blitz” method of phoning every company in their preferred industry and asking “Whom should I talk to about your current and anticipated freelance writing needs?,” those to whom “cold calling” is anathema should appreciate the value of the more targeted approach.

    • Carol Tice

      These days, when you can look at a company’s website and see exactly what’s lame about it, I personally prefer an email pitch, as I like the chance to call out exactly where they’re weak and how my writing a new blog/case study/About page/team bios/etc would improve it. It seems like it’s a great opportunity to position yourself as an expert who’s taken the time to analyze their marketing, as opposed to the generic “Do you need a freelance writer” phone pitch — though I know people that works for, too!

  8. Chrystal

    Thank you so much for posting the query letter. You have no idea how helpful that is for me. There have been so many jobs I wanted to try for, but was never confident in writing a query letter. Actually seeing one and not a standard form letter you see on the internet, really gave me some ideas on how to structure one.

    • Carol Tice

      Glad it’s helpful, Chrystal — and that’s really why I wanted to do it. Writers need a sense of how sophisticated their query should be. It should be fully researched and ready to go. That’s what makes editors say yes — they can see in the query that you know how to execute the story, and how it will turn out. You can see how much more you’d want to greenlight that than you would a vague topic where you’d have to sit with the writer and help them develop the angle.

  9. Jen L

    Okay, wow.

    I’m both impressed and intimidated now!

    But also a little inspired. It had never occurred to me to put several story ideas all in one letter. And at first when you wrote that, my reaction was “But how can you show the editor that you have a clearly defined path, with ideas for specific angles, interviews, sources, etc.?” Then I realized, “If I can’t show an editor that in just a couple of paragraphs, maybe I need to spend some more time refining my pitch.”

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Jen —

      I’ve only ever run across one editor who said they didn’t like multipitch. And I’ve gotten many assignments with this approach. Often, I’ll send two ideas — the one I love, and then another one I’ve developed as a backup. And inevitably, they like the backup idea!

      Multipitch is a great way to up your odds of getting a ‘yes,’ as you’ve presented more ideas they can choose. Give it a try!

      • Bin

        Thank you for this info, Carol! What would you suggest would be the maximum amount of pitches in a multi-pitch email? Could you go as high as four or five? For example in a pitch to a hip magazine which publishes a lot of 625 word count stories.

        • Carol Tice

          I think if you don’t know the editor, 3 is probably a good number — don’t overwhelm them in one single query.

  10. Brown Eyed Mystic

    I loved the way you crafted the query, Carol. Precise and brief with ample back-up studies, researches etc. Thank you for sharing it; it’s very helpful.

    However, I have one question: Can we credit the query system entirely? For example, in your case, didn’t your background, your published records, large following, website, experience, recommendations etc ALL work for you, instead of the query alone?

    I think if a newbie wrote this same query (which is as rare as finding a hair on the sand), he or she would not really be considered or paid as competitively unless he or she has the other things like website, experience, etc, right.

    In any case, lovely post. Very helpful too.


    • Carol Tice

      Certainly, the strength of your track record is a factor. But you really show what you’ve got with the query. I started with nothing, remember — no degree, no credits. So somewhere along the line, pitches got accepted just based on the strength of the pitch.

      I’ve called magazines and had them assign me over the phone without ever asking me for clips!

      My joke is no one really cares if you learned to write under a freeway overpass or at Columbia…if you can write. Your query is your chance to show you can write, wherever you’re at in your career.

  11. Alan Kravitz

    Great post, Carol. I have never done a multi-pitch query before, but you’ve got me thinking about doing some now! I also second the idea that LinkedIn is a great start-off point for something like this. I just did my first major outreach effort on LinkedIn and it’s already earned me some new gigs and prospects.

  12. perry rose

    Damn, Carol!

    Yet another reason why I tell folks to go to your blog.

    Did you know that if your hours to write these 3 articles, (or whatvever the amount of articles it will actually be) isn’t drawn out, you will be making more than a A-List copywriter for an assignment?

    I’m a copywriter. When I read your blog, every now and then I think about writing articles, maybe be a syndicated writer (I think it is more relaxing and less stressful).

    The $2,000 an article had me leaning forward a bit to read it again, though.

    Did I read that right? Or do I need to buy new glasses?

    That’s $4 a word, if…the article is 500 words.

    Publishers are paying that???!

    • Carol Tice

      Well hi Perry ! Haven’t heard from you in a while.

      If you read through, it’s $2 a word — 1,000-word articles. It’s a corporate client.

  13. perry rose

    Crap! .. Now I HAVE to get glasses.

  14. Katherine Swarts

    One additional issue that occasionally comes up when querying businesses (especially nonprofits), as opposed to periodicals: How to head off the risk that someone might take your query as an offer to provide volunteer, rather than paid, work? And how do you respond if they do?

    • Carol Tice

      I have never in 20+ years of querying had an editor or corporate communications manager become confused that I was volunteering to write for free! I think your professionalism in crafting the query hopefully heads that off.

  15. Katharyn Karg

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Katharyn —

      Thanks for the compliment! But I’m not on a donation model. For now, happy to have people buy my ebook and live Webinars, as well as recordings from past events. Look for more coming up in terms of content and ways to connect on here!

  16. Pinar Tarhan

    Hi Carol,

    I decided a while ago that I want to be published on magazines, whether they are the online or the print versions. So I dug deep, looked for great blog posts on writing the perfect query letters, invested on a couple of great books (writer’s digest and more), and finally, I feel like I am confident that I can write a good query letter.

    But now, I have another problem. It is really hard many magazines that I’m dying to write for. Sure, there are some big names but it is too early for me to start pitching to them. And I keep researching. Any suggestions for great free and paid market listing websites/ebooks/books that cover a wide range of topics?

    Oh, and coming up for great and irresistible story ideas is another thing. In theory, I know I have to find new twists to ideas. In practice, this is much harder to do.
    I’d really appreciate it.


    • Carol Tice

      Hi Pinar –

      I can’t help noticing that you say “published on magazines,” when correct English would be “in magazines.” There are several other grammar errors in your comment, too. I’m going to guess English is not your first language.

      Yes, it’s tough to crack the top consumer magazines…even for those of us with long journalism track records and perfect English. For most writers, it’s more realistic to start with smaller-circulation publications to gather some clips that would help you make the case that you’re the writer for a big national magazine assignment.

      The Writer’s Market has thousands and thousands of publications listed…buy it with online support where you can sort their database.

      Also…if you speak another language fluently, why not consider getting some clips in magazines in your native language? Being bilingual can be an advantage that gets you in the door if the topic relates to your home country.

      Hopefully you’re coming to the free call later tonight on how to write queries, with Renegade Writer Linda Formichelli! Details on my Facebook fan page if you haven’t seen.

      • Katherine Swarts

        There’s some great stuff on international writing opportunities at Though I have to say that blog comments, social networking discussions, and e-mails bring out the careless side in many a writer who has few excuses not to use flawless English. I’ve seen librarians, college professors, editors at major publishing houses, and well-published authors make some pretty glaring elementary errors in such venues!

  17. April Schroader

    Ok, I am finally at a place to start in my life and writing and I am going to start querying some smaller publications and local businesses.

    I will report back when I have a success and use my earnings to get your eBook 🙂

    For now, you are the first addition to my blogroll.

    • April Schroader

      Oh, sorry about the bad grammar. Wish we could edit our comments, but I should have proofed it better in the first place.

    • Carol Tice

      Best of luck April — and don’t worry about typos — it’s just blog comments! No biggie.

  18. HP van Duuren

    Thanks for the info,

    Usually I don’t do freelance writing or approach clients, although occasionly I have been approached for freelance projects when I was preceived as the ‘Go to Guy’.
    Creating a Query Letter looks like an excellent technique to position yourself as
    a ‘Go to Guy or – Gall’ and I have frequently used somewhat similar techiques
    for successfully approaching and contacting business contacts.

    Query (multiple ideas) indeed also creates lots of opportunities to shows lots of your qualities to an editor and it also helps not to waste his or her time, and also helps not to waste your own time on writing on speculation.

  19. Abass Toriola

    Thanks for this awesome post. I about fell over when I got to the part where you revealed that the publication pays $2000 for a 1000-word article.
    Now, I’ve gotta take action fast and implement all I’ve just learned from this article.

  20. Jermaine Mintuck

    Thank you for introducing me RIGHT AT THE MICRO-BUDDING of my writing career. I haven’t even sent a letter of anything to magazine people yet. I was thinking of doing this and your query letter just got me the right way. I see that this does better than the content mill crap people always seem to try. In other words, the long way around.

  21. Shauna L Bowling

    Carol, this example of your amazingly successful query letter is just what I needed. I’ve been putting off sending any out because I just wasn’t sure what should be included.

    With reference to the bio at the end: To date I’ve only written for the mills or gotten clients thru the bid sites, which were ghostwriting projects; nothing with my byline attached. I do contribute regularly to HubPages and have done so for two years now. Should I include that in my bio? (HubPages, not the mills) What can a new writer include in the bio if they have no accolades to speak of?

    • Carol Tice

      The basic rule is: You pitch with what you’ve got. If that’s what you’ve got now, use it. Some clients will know it’s junk and ignore you, but some won’t.

      Meanwhile, work on getting some more legit clips as your top priority so you can improve your bio line.

  22. Vicki Warner

    Hi Carol,
    I have fiddled and tweaked. I have blushed and rewritten. I have soaked up information with delight and admiration.

    My website has changed markedly over the short period of time I started on line writing. I have learned so much – one of the most remarkable being the truth of that old saying ‘if you want to find a diamond, you don’t go looking in a pile of manure.’

    Well, this post of yours with your generous demonstration of a super query is a diamond that I really needed to find. I would never have done so without following your posts, and other terrific, admired bloggers. I guess part of the whole scene is you also have to work on being a polished diamond, even when you know right now you are the uncut variety!

    Thank you, Carol. This is most appreciated.

    • Carol Tice

      Glad this helped you Vicki!

  23. donia moore

    Thank you for the full example of your query letter!
    I have begun to use multiple-pitch queries with success. The first national magazine I sent one to accepted them. I contacted the editor first by email to ask if they were accepting pitches. Then, along with my pitch I sent a clip that was related to the stories I was pitching. I got a phone call from the editor right away, asking me when I could have the first article done. After the pitch is accepted, don’t forget to verify how many words are required and if photos are needed, how many. Also, take a little time to find out the name of the editor, as you always suggest, so you can pitch directly to them. Thanks for your suggestions! They DO work!

    • Carol Tice

      And there’s nothing like the high of getting that quick response, and knowing…you nailed it! Perfect fit of idea to publication.

      I find when you do that, response is usually swift, despite their “allow 8-12 weeks” disclaimers.

  24. Sabita Saleem

    Hi Carol,

    This post is really inspiring and it has given me the starting point. I hope to earn freedom from this content mill I am caught up with.

    Its definitely the best escape plan ever :).

    Many Thanks

  25. Lương Điệp

    This post is really inspiring and it has given me the starting point. I hope to earn freedom from this content mill I am caught up with.

    Its definitely the best escape plan ever :).

  26. Tammy Farrell CPA CFE

    Thanks for re-posting this! I am working B2B and usually send LOIs instead of queries but it applies there as well. I haven’t been fleshing out my ideas that thoroughly as your’s shows. Congrats on having all 3 accepted!

  27. Felix Abur

    Thanks Carol. I’m preparing for a major pitch campaign to start in January and this article is invaluable.

    Warning: I will be pitching you too!

  28. Susan

    Love this!

    I’m always talking to people about how vital querying is. I actually really enjoy doing it and find it’s the single most lucrative marketing tactic I use. I’ve gotten huge contracts and assignments (magazines, TV studios and travel guidebooks) by nailing the query. Once you do it right a few times and get a taste for how effective it can be, it’s oddly addicting.

    Sure, I get rejected a lot too, but it doesn’t bother me that much. I just tweak and send to someone else.

    Great read, thanks for sharing it.

  29. Todd

    I started writing for a guy in August based on a query letter I sent on a whim.

    I thought it might be a good fit.

    Not sure if or how long it will last, but it has turned into one of my best gigs in 2016.

    I don’t know if I did the query letter (email) write or not and I had no experience. I saw you guys talking about sending those LOIs out and figured I would test/practice it.

    Crazy. It has given me some much-needed confidence to keep going.

    I may do some more next year, but right now I have a small list of folks lining up interested in what I can do.

    Plus, Sophia and me almost every Thursday (which I highly recommend!) as Den Buddies.

    • Carol Tice

      Having an accountability buddy you meet with is HUGE, Todd — glad you’re doing that!

  30. Pierre

    A very useful article. Sometimes breaking rules can work.


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