Unfortunately, the world of query letter writing is one of numbers: the more you write, the more responses you get. Now that gets a little daunting at first, because you might not get any (or few) replies – even rejections! Hopefully, if you’re following along with our other query letter tips, you’ll be getting better and better. But I’d like to focus on another important aspect of your query letters: getting organized.
What You Need to Track
Well, I think this is pretty straightforward, but it might vary depending on your niche and topic. Here’s what I’m tracking:
- Publication Name
- Contact Name
- Contact Email (I don’t have phone since I rarely use it, but you might want to track this)
- Article Topic (just in case I pitch similar topics to others)
- Status (matches the color coding – see below)
- Date/Comments (I have a running list of updates, with a date next to each)
That’s it. I also color-code the lines; dark grey is for queries that were rejected, yellow is for work that is won but not paid/complete, and green is for work complete and has been paid for.
My spreadsheet also has a second tab where I put story ideas that need a publication to pitch to, as well as a list of publications I want to pitch to and either haven’t, or I don’t have a good idea what to pitch them yet.
For me, less is more. I could totally overengineer this thing, but then I would be spending my time working on a spreadsheet, not writing. Guess which one pays more?
How to Track It
So, most of us – myself included, as I have mentioned – just use a spreadsheet to track your query letters. Google or Excel both work fine. Just make sure that it’s backed up safely, and don’t be afraid to adjust your columns for formatting as you go along.
Spreadsheets aren’t ideal. You can forget to update them; you might get the format wrong and it starts to get unwieldy. (Be sure you have a plan to archive stuff that is no longer useful – an extra, out of the way tab might work, or throw it into another spreadsheet all together.)
CRM systems are another option. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and I do have one actually – Highrise. I use it for my consulting services business. Why don’t I use it for queries? Well – that is a good question. Mostly it is because my services stuff has very long sales cycles, so I need to track proposals and follow-ups etc, whereas my writing projects tend to be Query -> Wait -> Receive Decision. There isn’t much negotiation or massive amounts of communication to manage.
That might be different for you. You might also find the thought of a spreadsheet to be nightmareish – it is the marketing arm of your freelance writing business, after all. I would suggest you take a look at the options out there – Zoho is another popular one, as well as Salesforce.
Scanners, Read Here
So, if you’re scanning this, here’s the important point: it isn’t about whether you use CRM tools or a simple spreadsheet. It’s about the quality of your tracking data – so whatever you put back in you get back out. If your spreadsheet is a mess or never updated, it doesn’t help, does it? Same for a CRM tool – it isn’t a magic wand that gets more writing work. It is just a tool to help you get organized.
FWJ Readers: Are you:
A) Not Organized
B) A Spreadsheet Person
C) A CRM Person
D) Organized with Something Else
Curious to hear your thoughts.