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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.


  1. I have a question about follow ups: If you send in a query via snail mail, do you follow up the same way or do you send an email? If by snail mail, do you put in the query with the follow up letter?


  2. Good question, Allison. I use the same contact method to follow up as I first approached the editor, so if I sent an email query, I follow up via email. Same goes for snail mail (though the majority of my pitches are via email these days).

    Hope this helps! :)

  3. I'm late to the conversation, but I have a question about following up: If you send a general LOI, do you send a follow up? If so, could you tell me how your phrase you LOI follow ups? Many thanks!


  4. Hi, Dee--

    I do follow up, usually with just a short email along the lines of "Just wanted to follow up on my LOI; please let me know if you're interested in learning more about what I can do for your company/association/magazine. If I don't hear from you, I'll touch base in four months or so (or six months, or whatever.)"

    I also make follow-up calls in addition to/instead of follow-up emails. Depends on the potential client. Hope this helps!

  5. I followed this advice and have secured a few assignments through following up. Thanks for the reminder to keep at it.

  6. Thanks, Kelly. This detailed info was just what I was looking for.