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Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Month of Templates: The Follow-Up

The template I’m going to share today is one of the simplest to write, yet is often overlooked by freelancers. It’s the follow-up letter.

Failing to follow up on a query or submission is a common freelance mistake. Yet simply sending a follow-up letter increases not only the chance of a response, but of an assignment as well. (Hey, the editor may have overlooked or missed your query, or been meaning to get to it…your follow-up letter may make the difference.)

A follow-up need only include a few sentences. Here's one of mine, with my comments in purple:

Dear Stephanie:

Hope you’re doing well. I’m writing to follow up on a query I sent you (working title, “Sleep Yourself Thin”) four weeks ago; I’ve dropped it below for your convenience. [Remind the editor of which pitch you're following up on, and include it in your follow-up (in the body of the email, not as an attachment) to make it easy for her. ]

Would you let me know at your earliest opportunity if you’re interested in this story for Complete Woman? If I don’t hear from you within two weeks, I’ll assume you’re not interested in the idea at this time and may market it elsewhere. [[Here's the bonus of following up--you put the onus on the editor to get back to you. If she wants the piece, great! If not, I'm not going to sit around for months hoping for a response--I'm moving on, baby. I've found this tends to provoke a response, even it's a "no thanks." You can give a market more time to respond--say three to four weeks--if you like. The idea is to give the editor (and yourself) a deadline.]

Thank you very much for your time; I look forward to hearing from you soon. [Standard closing line.]

Very truly yours,

Kelly James-Enger

And when do you follow up? That depends on the publication's guidelines. If it says that it typically responds in four to six weeks, for example, I follow up in (you guessed it) four to six weeks. For markets I've written for before, I follow up in two to three weeks. For markets that are new to me and that don't provide response guidelines, I usually follow up in about four weeks.

Don't let your queries languish! Follow up and if you don't garner a response from a pitch, resub it to another market. It's not doing you any good sitting on your hard drive.