Querying? Here’s How to Speed Up the Process

Regardless of whether you’re sending off a short 300-word article or a novel, querying is a major part of a writer’s life. The trouble is, it can take an ungodly amount of time if you don’t create and use a strategy. Here’s what you can do to speed up the process and get good results.

1. Create a drafts folder in your email.

For every piece you have, create a query letter in your email. Place the drafts in a separate folder that is clearly labeled. Unless the submission guidelines state otherwise, place “[query–[Last Name]–Title of Piece] in the subject line. The only blank areas should be the recipient’s name and the date. This allows you to search for the draft within your email client. When you send your message out and get responses back, you can see at a glance which submission you’re getting messages about.

When you find a publication, editor, or agent you want to send your query to, copy the text of the draft email into a fresh email. Then fill in the name and date details. Add any information you can to personalize the message, such as similar titles the publication has run.

2. Set up auto-reminders.

Tasks like sending follow-up emails or noting that an agent is past their typical response time can be difficult to keep track of. Use a system like Query Tracker or even Google Calendar to set reminders about each task. This way, you don’t have to spend extra time double-checking whether you’re up to date. You can just follow your reminders as you go and get ‘er done.

3. Use color coding.

If you’re tracking everything in a spreadsheet, color coding can speed up the assessment of overall progress. It allows you to sort your rows and columns by the status of the query, type of query (e.g., fiction), or other factors.

4. Summarize guidelines. 

For every publisher, agent, or editor you want to submit to, create a spreadsheet row with all pertinent information you’d need to submit, such as the agent’s name or the query email address. Include a cell in this summary row with a link to the submission guidelines for later reference. Then, in a final cell, list all of the pieces you plan to submit to that publisher, editor, or agent. This way, you don’t spend time looking up website URLs again. You quickly can cross off agents, publishers, or editors for each piece after a query is finished.

5. Schedule time.

Many writers query whenever they have a moment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But scheduling time in advance allows you to get in the frame of mind to work with real focus. You can set yourself up to work when you know you’ll have quiet or won’t get interrupted. It also makes it less likely that you’ll push the querying to the back burner, as it’s an official calendar event.

Remember, no matter what hacks you use to speed up querying, it’s still a process that’s going to take a few months at a minimum. Most publishers, agents, and editors have a standard response time of 8 – 12 weeks, although some will respond in 2 – 4 weeks. So no matter how many queries you can get out, you’ll have waiting to do. Since you’re going to have time on your hands, my advice is always to have multiple irons in the fire. Work in batches, tweak based on the feedback you get, and then try again.