To Query or Not to Query

Over the weekend I received more emails from editors regarding submissions than usual – which is to say more than zero. Preparations are underway for the next issue of Solarpunk Press, which is going to feature my short story “Last Day” and an accompanying illustration, for which I’m pretty stoked. The other emails I received were rejections, which I’m so used to nowadays that they roll off my mind – though I did receive notice of an honorable mention from one magazine that I’ve been submitting to for years. More on that later.

Though I got word back on a few stories and sent them back out into the darkness, like any professional writer I’m awaiting responses on a lot of other submissions. A couple of these have passed the response time indicated by a couple of weeks, which means according to the editors’ guidelines that I’m allowed to query. But I’m hesitating to email, due to a bad experience from a few months ago. The short version is that I contacted an editor (the associated magazine shall remain nameless) and received an incredibly nasty email to my polite query, so now I’m worried about offending anyone else. Editors have an incredibly busy schedule, and I’m sure the last thing they want is to have to waste time apologizing to writers for taking longer to make a decision than they predicted. And while I’d prefer to have an answer sooner than later (as would anyone, I think) I’m not impatient, and so I’m happy to wait however long is necessary for a response. But part of me has always followed the rule of thumb to query editors when appropriate, just to make sure that a story hasn’t fallen behind a virtual desk or been accidentally skipped in the slush pile.

There are a lot of questions that accompany querying. If an editor says not to query until 90 days after submitting, for example, should you send an email on Day 91? I generally wait an additional week, since that only seems appropriate. But what if there’s another market with an upcoming deadline that you want to submit the story to, if it gets rejected by the magazine currently holding onto it? Should you still wait? Sending out a polite query just to inquire about the story’s status shouldn’t be an issue, I would think. If the editor’s busy, they have full license to ignore you. And yet, my previous experience tells me that maybe it’s best just to remain silent.

None of this rambling solves my conundrum, of course. I’ll probably wait a little longer before I query, just in case. In the meantime, I have plenty more writing to do.

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2 thoughts on “To Query or Not to Query

  1. I dithered for months once because the publication gave no indication of how long their second round took after the slush readers bumped it upstairs. Turned out a change to the submission process coincided with a change of editor, and they had lost it. When I finally queried, the new editor looked at it the very next day. And rejected it of course, but very nicely. Now I use The Grinder to see if a publication running behind on submissions.

    • Have you ever gotten a rejection letter that says something like, “Your story is awesome, we had to make a really tough call, and we feel terrible saying we’re not going to publish it” and been really excited that your story made it that far? I’ve tried explaining this to non-writers, and they look at me like I’m nuts.

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