Writers: Should You Nag That Editor About Your Query?

New writers often ask me this question. They’ve submitted an article pitch, or an unsolicited manuscript and nothing. How long should they wait before they email or call to ask whether the editor is interested? How long until they can send that pitch or article to the next editor?

I’ve got an easy answer for this.

My personal strong feeling is that if an editor is interested, you’ll likely hear from them right quick. They all say allow 4-6 weeks… but I can’t recall sending a pitch to an editor who called me more than a month later to say they liked it.

It never hurts to send a reminder once, say a month after you submitted. Every once in a while you will find your editor meant to contact you, but your query had gotten lost on their desk. And it’s never rude to follow up once.

But once is the limit, people. More than that and you will set off the editor’s warning system that you are an amateur.

Of course, the reason new writers ask this question is that they feel hampered from sending their pitch or piece to another editor until they get an answer from the first editor. This is a trap you don’t want to fall into.

Always submit your queries with the note that it is a nonexclusive submission. That alerts the editor you are continuing to pitch it around elsewhere. At the speed news moves these days, I think nobody’s too insulted or put off by that. If you’ve crafted a strong pitch or article, it may well have a news angle that won’t keep forever, so they’ll respect that you are continuing to try to get your article in print before your news goes stale.

The other way around it, of course, is to tailor your pitches to each individual publication you are trying. If you’re designing your pitches right, each one is aimed to fill a publication’s particular needs, so while you may have a similar idea you’ve queried other publications with, the slant shouldn’t be identical. This frees you to pitch on and on without waiting around, particularly to non-competing publications.

When you’re new to writing, I think it’s key not to fall into the trap of waiting around for things to happen. You send one query letter and then fall into a funk for a month wondering if the editor wants it. You second-guess yourself – should I have given them a different angle? Mentioned my expert? Written in a breezier style? And so on.

Don’t let this happen! Professionals send queries and then move on, that very hour, to the next pitch. Don’t look back. You can’t make a living unless you are sending many queries each week. Trust that if your idea fills a need for the editor, they will call.

If you’re the type that worries about whether an editor really got your query (99% likelihood they did), and you emailed, just end your query with “please respond to acknowledge receipt.” That may get you a quick note so you know it got there and didn’t hit the spam bin by accident.

More tips and advice for new writers looking to break in will be available in my forthcoming e-book, “Start Freelance Writing.”

What’s your experience? Anyone had an editor accept their article or query a month or more after you sent it? Have another opinion about simultaneous pitches? I’d like to hear it.