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What Can I Expect From a Query?
by Kathryn Lay
A query letter is an important step to selling your writing. As you prepare to send out your query letters, do you wonder what the response will be to your well-thought out idea? There are seven possible responses to expect.
- No reply.
The truth of the matter is, a small percentage of publications don’t respond to a query they aren’t interested in. So, like a manuscript, I give my queries a time limit. If I haven’t heard back in 6 weeks, I send it elsewhere. Generally, I’ve found that a positive response comes quickly, even 2-3 weeks. Sometimes, this rule doesn’t apply.
Don’t let ‘no replies’ discourage you. Move on. Don’t allow your great idea to languish.
- A form or personal rejection.
You will most commonly receive form rejections. Occasionally, an editor will scribble a note explaining they have something similar or can’t use your idea, but to please send more. That is a good rejection. If you’ve made a list of other markets that fit your query you can quickly redo the query to fit the next market and send it out.
- Check in the mail.
Unless you are very established, this won’t happen. I’ve sent full manuscripts that resulted in contracts or sudden checks, but rarely will you get a check on a manuscript, sight unseen, unless the editor knows your work. You might be offered a kill fee, which means if they don’t want the finished piece, they agree to pay a percentage for your trouble.
- We’ll look at it on speculation.
The majority of positive responses you will see in the beginning will be this approach. The editor likes your idea and will give you the go-ahead to send the full manuscript, but emphasizes this is on speculation. This means that they will be happy to read and consider it, but are making no promises to buy it.
Here is where you will do your work, writing and perfecting your article. Remember, keep true to your query. If you promise humor, don’t send pathos. If you promise 25 Steps to Improving Your Marriage, don’t send 18. If they like your idea and your manuscript delivers what you have promised, your chances of making a sale are very high.
- We’d like to hold your manuscript for possible future use.
This response has its ups and downs. It means they like it. It may mean they are currently filled for the next several issues. It may mean they need more approval. It may mean that they think they like it, but aren’t sure.
The holding pattern can be frustrating. The best response to such a letter is to give them a time frame. If they want to hold it indefinitely, you may want to let them know you will give them 90 days to make a decision, then will send it elsewhere. If they give a date to respond back, check back with them if you haven’t heard back within two weeks of that date.
Don’t be held hostage, especially on a timely or interesting idea that might easily find a home elsewhere.
- The Phone Call.
Many of the larger magazines respond to a query they like by calling instead of writing. This way, they can give you an idea of what they are looking for in your article. Sometimes, the whole idea you are proposing won’t fit their plan, but something has caught their eye and they’d like to discuss it with you.
Be prepared, be flexible, and be professional if this happens.
Nowadays, many responses come through email. Your original query was more than likely sent by email. When you are looking at guidelines, check to see if a publication allows or prefers email queries and/or manuscripts. Many do. Surprisingly, many print magazines also prefer it. But don’t expect that always to mean ‘a quick response.’ Sometimes it is quicker. Other times, it still may take weeks.
However you receive a response to your query, it will either be an opportunity to write your piece well, sell your already written piece to the publication, or resend it to another book or magazine.
© Copyright 2011, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through email@example.com
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