Freelance Writing: How to Track Magazine Query Letters (& Follow Ups)

Blue Question MarkQ: What’s the most efficient way to track magazine queries when freelance writing? I’ve been doing it by date on a single sheet of paper, but that seems haphazard. —Ellen Ryan

A: There isn’t a “right” way to track queries. You could create a database on your computer. You could write them on napkins and stuff them in a cookie jar. Any method can work as long as you understand how to use it. If you’re sending out submissions by the busload, all that really matters is that you’re organized.

For a writer who doesn’t have a system—or has the organizational skills of a bowling ball—it’s a good idea to set up a spreadsheet to track your submissions. There are six major categories that belong in your chart: the article idea, the magazine you’ve sent it to, the editor’s name/submissions address of said magazine, the date you submitted it, the date by which you should get a response and the date you plan to follow up in the event that your query goes unanswered. It should look something like this:

Article Idea Magazine Submitted To Editor name/ submissions e-mail address Date Submitted Date Submitted Date Magazine should reply by Follow up on

It’s these elements you need to remember. And for any magazine that doesn’t give a response within the time it states in its guidelines, give the editor at least one month before checking in.

You can add in extra boxes, of course, such as article accepted/rejected, contract signed, payment received and so on. You could always highlight accepted queries or draw happy faces next to them. Whatever works best for you. Just stay organized.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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0 thoughts on “Freelance Writing: How to Track Magazine Query Letters (& Follow Ups)

  1. Ruth

    I use the exact same headings in the Excel spreadsheet I created, but optimistically take it a step further, as you suggested. My final column includes notes about the date it’s due, number of words and payment. I color this font red, then when payment is received, I change it to green!

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