Freelance writers seeking work from trade publications and some other types of clients often send editors a letter of introduction (LOI) rather than a pitch. This is especially true of clients and editors who are more apt to generate topics to assign to freelancers rather than assigning based on freelance pitches. Content marketing writer Jennifer Goforth Gregory shares a sample LOI on her blog.
Culled from my own experience and the session on Rate My LOI at the recent ASJA conference, here are some strategies for writing LOIs.
Tailor your letter. Rather than mass emailing every trade magazine editor you can find, take the time to customize your message to each person. You might mention an article you enjoyed in the latest issue or an award the editor recently won to show that you’ve done your homework.
Summarize your expertise. Explain why you’re good a fit for her needs. If you’ve covered several different beats, only mention the ones that are related to the publication or organization you’re targeting. If I were sending an LOI to a restaurant trade magazine, I might mention that I’ve written for Fresh Cup and Pizza Today, but I might leave out Energy Executive Quarterly. Although it might seem self-evident that you’re comfortable interviewing experts if you’ve written for other trade magazines, I have had editors ask, so now I mention my experience conducting interviews. Depending on the target client, it might also be worth mentioning if you’re experienced working in a CMS, editing photos, or analyzing data.
Link to relevant samples. Rather than attaching my writing clips (which could get the email flagged as spam), I include links to past articles that are similar in style and topic to what the editor might need to assign. Editors can always view writing samples on my website, but I like to hand-pick the samples that are most relevant to their needs. Definitely don’t send poetry or fiction as samples with your LOI!
Follow up. It’s rare that your LOI will arrive at the precise moment an editor needs to assign something that fits your expertise, so be patient and play the long game. If you don’t get a response to your first email, follow up periodically, especially if you have more recent clips to share.