Posted by: Doug | June 20, 2012

Queries on Submissions: How long should I wait?

YOU’VE SENT YOUR WORK to a publisher for consideration. You check the mailbox and your email often, anxious to hear back. The good news is that most publishers adhere to their advertised response times and send you their decision. But, they don’t always. Then what do you do?

60 Days is a Typical Wait Period
First, check the publisher’s submission guidelines, which will tell you how long to wait before sending a query about your submission. Of the 149 publishers that I’ve tracked, this ranges from 7 days up to 300, with a third of them providing no guidance whatsoever. From my personal experience, the median wait time specified by publishers is in the 60-day range. If no guidance is given, I use this 60-day number as a reasonable amount of time. In my experience, when a time period was given, 28 out of 61 publishers always met their promised response times. If I throw out a single bad response time from my data, and allow a week or two extra grace time, then 84 of the 98 publishers I submitted my work to adhered closely to their own guidelines on response time.

Publisher’s Recommended Wait Period before Querying

Follow-Up Frequency
So, how often do you need to follow-up on a submission because the publisher did not respond? Of the 208 submissions I sent out over the past few years, I followed up on 10 of them. Half of them responded. Typically, if my submission was originally submitted by email or web form, I sent a short email query. Many publisher websites provide guidance on how to follow-up or query them on the submission. Was it worth sending a follow-up? In my case, yes, it was; one of my submissions became lost in their spam email filter, but once they found it, they accepted it!

Tracking Follow-Up
Finally, how do you track when to follow-up? I recommend using a process. You can record your submissions and set up a tickler file; however, I prefer to use my application The Writer’s Scribe for tracking my submissions. I developed The Writer’s Scribe when I had too many submissions to easily track. Using the application, I can see when a submission is past due: the number shown for Days Outstanding displays in red when it exceeds the publisher’s guidance on response time. I also set up an Alert, which is an electronic form of a tickler file. My active alerts appear as a red number above the Alerts tab, in a manner similar to the unread mail counter. I then know to review these Alerts for follow-up reminders.

Is it Worth Doing a Follow-Up?
Following up on late response times means your work may be published sooner. It’s easy to say, “Oh, they’re still looking at it even though it’s been a while.” In reality, things happen and publishers go out of business or work gets lost. Allowing your work to remain ‘pending consideration’ will prevent you sending it to another publisher who may want it. A single publisher can hold your work for months, so track your submissions, follow up on late responses, and resubmit, resubmit, resubmit.

Remember, you are your work’s best advocate.


  1. Thanks for the informative post. I do need that reminder to query a lost submission–otherwise I end up waiting for no good reason.