Writing Resources

The Query Trigger

So I have a couple stories that have been ‘under consideration’ for close to a year by some respectable magazines that generally respond much sooner.

Now the responsible thing for me to do is to query them and find out if the submission or the reply was lost in the ether.

But I won’t do that.

See I’m generally not a superstitious kind of guy. I regularly walk under ladders and kick (cross paths with) black cats and so on. The science degree makes that inevitable.

But when it comes to query letters I am superstitious.


Because out of the dozens of query letters I’ve sent asking about the status of a story 99.9% have come back as rejections… usually immediately and going something like this:

That story? Oh yeah, we totally rejected that ages ago. Sorry we forgot to tell you but we assumed you have given up on the whole writing thing and wouldn’t mind.

Basically if I send the query letter it is the equivalent of me handing the editor a loaded gun. And the victim is my story.

So no, I won’t be sending out any queries this time around. Maybe once they have reached their one year anniversaries I’ll brave my luck.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.


  • Robert

    Maybe it’s ‘The Economy’, but this kind of unpleasant practice seems to be becoming ever more prevalent. It’s disrespectful to not even bother with a short proforma letter after a person has gone to the trouble of, say, travelling 300 miles for an interview, or putting together a 30 page tailored service proposal, or sent in a writing submission… Silence used to be a ‘war of nerves’ tactic that determined starting positions in negotiations – if your nerve broke first (ie you chased them up), then the opening offer on terms and conditions would be lower. Nowadays a lack of response is just as likely to be down to lost documents, bureaucracy, a lazy screening processes, or people lacking the backbone to say ‘no thanks, but wish you well’.

    I’m the opposite of superstitious! I prefer to book my flight on Friday 13, because I can go economy class and there’s a good chance many seats will be free, so I can spread out and sleep! And I love a good $30k discount on a house just because someone once died there. Everyone focuses on potentially getting a ghost, whereas I focus on the new BMW I can get from the discount!

    When you say ‘query letters’, do you not prefer to call? I often find that even if the answer is ‘no’ on paper, a call might reveal who came to that decision, for what reason, or what future opportunities there may be. The key being to get through to the decision maker, rather than an administrative person.

    Speaking of ghosts, I should get the chance to read your story today – thanks for that link in your earlier blog.

  • Brent Knowles


    I’m not sure if its a new trend or just the way publishing has always work. I generally give them the benefit of the doubt… there seems to be more writers than readers sometimes and magazines are deluged with submissions every month.

    Still it is annoying. And some of the busiest magazines (Analog and Asimov) have among the shortest turn around times so it is *possible* for a magazine to respond quickly.

    It is awesome that you avoid superstitions… probably something I need to work on. And yes a BMW is a better thing to focus on than a ghost.

    As for writing query letters instead of calling that’s mostly because its easier to track down an address or e-mail. Not a lot of magazines make their phone number easily visible but yes a call might sometimes be beneficial because it would establish more of a contact between the writer and the editor and some useful information could be gleaned.

    Though if every writer called the editors would probably become so busy they wouldn’t be editing anymore…

    Hope you enjoy the story!

    Take care,


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