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Should I Write Query Letters for Short Stories?

by Kent Smythe
(St. Paul, MN)

A writer I know says that I should never send anything to a magazine without writing a query letter first to see if the editor is interested in my idea. Is this true?

ANSWER:
Hi Kent. This is true of non-fiction articles, in which case you query an editor with one or several specific ideas outlining your plans for the article(s).

With fiction, however, you do not send a query letter, but follow writers' guidelines instead. First, research magazines and look at sample copies until you find several that look like a good "fit" for your writing. Note the length of the stories, the sophistication of the language, any themes you can detect, and read the writers' guidelines. Then submit your story following the guidelines. If they ask for stories of 2000 words or less, do not send a story that is 2300 words. Edit the story to 2000 words.

You may also find this page about creative writing submissions helpful.