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How to Follow Up on Article Queries (Without Being a Stalker)


WaitingFor freelancers, waiting is the hardest part.

But editors receive too many unsolicited queries to respond to each one instantly. And some won’t respond at all unless a query catches their interest immediately.

Good ideas also fall by the wayside if they hit editors’ inboxes during deadline, while they’re on vacation, or if they’re out of the office at a conference or because of an unforeseen event, like an epic storm.

Sometimes it pays to follow up on article queries — as long as you do it in a way that doesn’t make you seem like a stalker.

Follow-up can mean more income

I eventually got a $300 assignment from an editor of a magazine who missed my original message, because his office was in shambles after Hurricane Sandy.

Another time, an editor who had assigned me a story stopped returning messages. A quick check of LinkedIn and a call to the publication confirmed she had moved on.

After following up with her successor to find she wasn’t interested, I reworked the story, pitched it to a different magazine, and added another $300 to my bank account rather than letting the finished piece go to waste.

A system that keeps it pro

Whatever the circumstances, most editors fine with a getting a follow-up email or call about a query, as long as it doesn’t come within days of the initial submission.

Here’s my process:

  • I add an entry to my Google Calendar to follow up about a month after I send the initial query.
  • When that date comes, I write a brief message that references the original query.
  • If I see the editor I originally sent my pitch to has jumped ship during the wait time, I try to find someone else in the magazine’s editorial department. I search the masthead or call the magazine to get up-to-date information.
  • If I can, I include fresh writing samples and breaking news that make a query more timely, to show professionalism and persistence.

Put a face to your name

While you’re waiting to hear back, keep active in building your network. Make connections online, at writing conferences, and other industry events to help elevate your work to the top of the query pile.

That said, it’s also important to know when to move on.

A writer and editor may have a great conversation over cocktails at a conference, but that doesn’t mean the freelancer should send the unsuspecting editor every query they’ve ever crafted.

Even if an editor showed some initial interest, don’t keep following up after they’ve cut off contact.

And definitely don’t go stalker style and try to friend them on Facebook.

If you don’t succeed…

What should you do when you’ve followed submission guidelines to a tee, followed up with polite emails, and received rejections or no responses at all?

Reheat a cold query, rework the lede and headline and send it to a new market.

I recently placed a story based on a query I originally wrote in 2012, after I updated it and sent it to a different magazine.

How do you follow-up on queries? Tell us in the comments below.

Charlene Oldham is a freelance writer and teacher in Saint Louis.