Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Draft a Profile Query

Sue Fagalde Lick By Sue Fagalde Lick

Profiles, features which paint word portraits of interesting people, are among the easiest types of articles to sell. Nearly every publication uses them, and you can often write them with just a little bit of research and one interview. The people you profile need not be celebrities; many people who are not famous have fascinating stories to tell. Examples: the woman who runs a soup kitchen for the homeless, a dog trainer who gets incorrigible mutts to behave, a favorite teacher at the local high school, or a cancer survivor who runs marathons.

Everyone has a story. Look for people with interesting jobs, hobbies, charitable activities, unusual experiences, or special talents. People in the arts and public officials are natural subjects, but you’ll have more luck proposing a story about someone who hasn’t already been overexposed in the media. You never know where you might find a worthy profile. One night at dinner, our waiter happened to mention that he would be gone next month doing research in Saudi Arabia. By the time dessert was served, we had an interview scheduled.

When seeking profile possibilities, consider the mission of the paper for which you want to write. Community newspapers require that profiles be about local residents. A church paper would want someone from that denomination, and an arts publication would not be interested in your dog-training story, unless the trainer can teach the pups to paint.

If someone sounds intriguing, find out as much as you can about who they are and what they do, then craft your query, starting with a lead sentence that will make the editor as interested in this person as you are. Describe what you want to write, why the readers would be interested, and why you are the person to write the story.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Make a list of possible profile subjects, match them to the most likely markets, then draft a query for one or more of them.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Freelancing for Newspapers, worked as a staff writer, photographer and editor for newspapers in California and Oregon for many years before moving into full-time freelancing. In addition to countless newspaper and magazine articles, she has published three books on Portuguese Americans. She has taught workshops at Oregon Coast Community College, online for Writing-world.com and for Willamette Writers and California Writers Club. She offers an online course on reviews as well as individual coaching. See her website and visit her blog.

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