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

For a freelance writer who doesn’t have a query tracking system—or has the organizational skills of a bowling ball, like me—here is a simple spreadsheet to help you keep track.

Q: 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

Grammar Rules

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 bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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