Mysterious Queries, Part 1

Picture this.  You’re an author.  You’ve spent a very long time dreaming up and typing a fantastic story.  You’ve found the perfect market for it, and you (following the guidelines, of course) send it out.

Goodbye, little story!  Goodbye!  I hope you do well and I hear from you soon….

But you don’t.  A week passes.  And then another. And then a month!

OH MY GOSH!  What happened to my story?  Did I accidentally send it to Great Aunt Ruth instead of the market?  What if I accidentally sent a picture of myself in Jamaica instead of my story?  GASP!

What Do I Do Now?

The answer: Query!

The Shimmer guidelines say to query if you haven’t heard from us if a month has passed.  Why do we say this?

The internet is a wild, wild place, dear readers.  Any number of things can happen.  Your story could get lost on the way and never arrive.  Our response could have been eaten by a dreaded interweb monster.  Maybe your story was misplaced?  Who knows!  That is why you should query if you have not heard from us.

What if I come off as needy?  Or desperate?  What if they autoreject me for bothering them?

Relax, grasshopper.  We invited you to query.  If you’ve read the guidelines and understand when to query, we won’t be mad at you.  We’re happy to help, honest!

Besides, I’m going to tell you how to query.  Right after I tell you….

When to Query

Should you query us at EXACTLY thirty days, right down to the minute?  No.  That’s unnecessary.  The thirty day rule is not a contract of any sort, it’s just an estimate. Here’s what we’re really trying to say:

“Hey!  Usually we can read and response to your story within 30 days, but that’s just an average.  If it’s been like 40 or 50 days and you haven’t heard from us at all?  Something probably went wrong.  Shoot us a polite little email and let’s figure this out.”

Also, sometimes a market will read your story and hang on to it.  Why are they holding on to it?  They just want to read it a time or two, maybe let it bounce around in their minds for a bit to see if it’s memorable, or if it will fit in with the particular theme or niche they are going for. If we’ve let you know we’re holding on to your story, there’s no need to query–we’re on the job.

It’s been forty-five days and now I have to write a query letter. How?!

Here’s an example of a good query letter.

Dear [Editor’s Name]

I submitted [story] on [date], and have not yet received

a response.  I am writing to make sure my story arrived safely.

Best,

[Author Name]

That’s it!  Keep it very simple, and very polite.

Here’s an example of a query letter you might NOT want to send.

Dear Sir/Madam

I sent you my story, but you never wrote back.  Why not?  Are you mad at me or something?  I told you I like your magazine, and I even bought a copy once.  Is this how you treat your fans?

So I just wanted to know if you just hated my story and decided not to reply.  You probably did.  That’s okay, though, cuz I’m gonna be a famous author one day and I’ll never send you another story again.

Bye.

Ouch!  No one wants to receive a letter like that.  Don’t be defensive or over explain everything.  Remember, keep it simple and to the point.

Now You Know How to Query

It’s not as hard or scary as you think.  Stuff happens.  Editors understand that.

Part II of this post will be on how/when to query for length.  So stay tuned!

I’d love to hear about any querying questions or comments you might have.  Feel free to leave them in the comments.

Happy Querying!

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