An appropriate query
Here's a template for a query that reveals birding knowledge, writing skills and some business sense. The writer has no previous contact with me and sets a business-casual tone.
Dear Ms. Hooper:
I propose an article about backyard landscaping for hummingbirds for a future version of WildBird's annual hummingbird issue. The May/June 2008 issue included "Birdscaping for Buzzers" by Val Cunningham, but I can offer a different take on the topic.
As a long-time gardener and avid birder... [Convincing details ensue.]
The submissions guidelines cite six to eight weeks for a reply, so I'll follow up with you then. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to working with you.
Why would that query prompt me to consider working with and paying this freelance writer? The query
* arrives via e-mail
* uses my name (not the previous editor's name and not the generic "Editor")
* correctly cites the magazine's name (attention to detail!)
* shows familiarity with the magazine's previous content and submission guidelines
* provides a different perspective on a previously covered topic
* offers clues about the writer's background and expertise
* comes across as businesslike but not stilted