Q: I e-mailed a query to a magazine editor three weeks ago and haven’t heard from him. The writer’s guidelines state, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you if we want to use your piece.” How long should someone wait to hear back from an e-mail query? Is it appropriate to send the query again and indicate that this is a follow-up? —Ruth A.
A: If the writer’s guidelines state, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you,” my hunch is that the editor contacts only the authors whose pieces he plans to use. This is a bit unorthodox, as most magazines will send you (at minimum) a polite, yet standard, rejection letter if they choose not to use your work.
It’s important to keep in mind that while the Internet/e-mail age has sped up the querying process on the writer’s end, it hasn’t necessarily sped up the response time of publishers—mainly because most are inundated with even more queries than before (because of the ease of e-mail) and most publishers have smaller staffs than they did even five years ago. So three weeks is not much time by publishing standards.
As far as I see it, you have two realistic options: 1. Wait at least eight weeks, then nicely follow up by resending your query with a friendly note checking up on its status; or 2. If your query could fit other magazines, start shopping the idea to them. Should one accept it, then send a note to the “don’t call us” editor and withdraw your idea from consideration. If it were me and there were other potential markets, I’d go with option 2—it gives you a better chance of placing the work. If it’s too narrow for anyone else, go with option 1.
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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.