A Time to Query

Often a good portion of a writer’s life, when not writing, rewriting, polishing, fretting, researching, brainstorming, etc, is spent waiting.

Response times from publication are as varied as the publications themselves.  I have a short story “out” to one publication now.  This particular publication has a well-known long response time, but when the four-month date of sending them my story passed,  I decided to send a “status query” email.

A query on the status of one’s story doesn’t have to be long, in fact shorter is better. Editors are long on stacks of things to read and very short on time.

When writing a query letter I follow these rules:

1) I find out how the editors prefer to be contacted. If the guidelines state they only accept snail mail queries, that’s what I send. The same goes for email queries.

2) I make sure I’m not sending out a query too soon.  Most publications will list their response times in their guidelines.  For instance, Strange Horizons (which is not the publication I just queried) lists their response time on their Fiction Guidelines page:    Strange Horizons Fiction Guidelines

3) I always do some research and find out the name of the editor/s who will be reading my story and making the decision on whether or not to publish it. I make sure the query letter is addressed to him or her directly. Even if the publication uses first readers or assistant editors, using the editor’s name in a query letter shows I’ve done my research on the publication .  I look at the publication’s masthead or in the “about us” section of a website to find the editor/s name/s.

4) I keep it short and polite. Not including the salutation and closing, my query today was exactly two sentences long. I told them the title of my story and gave the submission date. Then politely asked if they could let me know the story’s status.

Now there is nothing left to do but more waiting and writing. 🙂


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