I’ve previously covered the submission status query letter, but I thought it was worth a revisit mostly because I’ve seen writers questioning if they should send a query letter and wondering if a publisher would be offended or angry if they did. Let me cut to the chase here. Unless a publisher specifically asks you not to query in the submission guidelines, there is no reason they should get upset if you send a query letter, provided you follow a few basic rules. What are those rules? Numbered list incoming! (Note, this post is NOT about initial queries to agents or publishers for novels. That’s a whole different beast.)
So, let’s put this all together in a real-world example. I recently sent the following submission status query to a publisher:
I would like to inquire about the status of my short story “XXX” submitted for XXX on June 21st, 2017.
In this case the publisher did not list an expected response time in their guidelines nor did they cover when/if to send queries. So I turned to Duotrope, which told me the publisher was responding to submissions in about 30 days, on average. I sent my query letter after 60 days. I might have sent it sooner, but 60 days felt like an appropriate amount of time to wait. I received a response (a rejection) two days after my query. So, did I follow the rules? I think so. I checked the guidelines, I waited an appropriate amount of time, and my letter was short, polite, and to the point. The result: I got a prompt response. The publisher did not send me an angry “how dare you” letter, just the form rejection I was going to get anyway.
To recap, if you follow the guidelines above, there’s no reason for a publisher to get upset if you send a query letter. Honestly, if something as simple and commonplace as a submission status query does upset a publisher, that’s likely a publisher you don’t want to work with. Just remember publishers are regular (and often very busy) folks who sometimes make mistakes, lose submissions, fall behind, and so on. Because of that, the query letter is often just as useful to the publisher as it is to the author. Hell, I’ve had publishers thank me for sending a query letter.
Of course, if you query and still don’t get a response after a reasonable amount of time, say two weeks, it might be time to consider a withdrawal letter so you can send your story somewhere else. For more info on withdrawal letters, check out this post.
Got a question or comment on submission status queries? I’d love to hear it in the comments.