9 reasons your article idea got turned down
There are times when your article idea might get turned down for reasons beyond your control — perhaps something similar has already been planned, or the editor has no budget left for freelances. But more often than not the issue is you or your idea. Here are 9 classic errors — and how to fix them…
Your covering note lets you down
A covering note that isn’t written in a way that inspires confidence about your writing style (clunky syntax, typos, poor flow etc) is an instant turn-off. Spend time crafting and polishing it before you send — it’s the first example of your writing the editor will see.
Your idea is too generic
Good ideas are often very specific. ‘10 tips for beating writer’s block’ is hopelessly generic, especially for such a well-worn topic. ’10 alternative remedies that can help you beat writer’s block’ is already a bit more interesting.
Your ideas been done before
You might think your piece on ‘What Star wars can teach you about parenting’ is a fresh, clever approach to a topic, but just Google it first and you’ll see it’s been done already. Googling potential ideas helps you see what’s been done and spot gaps too.
Your idea isn’t clear
Sometimes you pitch an idea that just makes no immediate sense to an editor, and of course it gets turned down. The best ideas have a simplicity about them — if you can’t sum up in a single sentence or phrase, it’s not there yet. Better still, get someone else to explain your idea to you and see how it sounds.
In order to attract an editor’s attention, it’s tempting to make big claims for what you’ll cover in your piece: a comprehensive guide to getting published in 500 words, say. But unrealistic claims will dent your credibility. Break the topic down, select a niche, give it an interesting angle.
It’s not something we’d ever publish
Editors hate getting ideas that show no familiarity with the magazine. If the idea feels like it’s been blasted to a hundred titles, and/or takes a style or topic that just doesn’t fit, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back. Always spend a bit of time getting familiar with the market first.
It’s political (or religious)
Many titles have a policy of staying away from these sensitive areas. You might be confident that the editor will be in sympathy with your piece for or against Trump, for example, but this is a publication you’re pitching to, not an individual. Always check the submission guidelines.
You’re pushing too hard
Generally editors are very organised people. They have a pile of submissions to work through, and lots of other priorities too (such as a title to publish), and they’ll get to you when they can. So if you start chasing them for a response the day after you sent in your idea, or email every Tuesday and Thursday for 8 straight weeks, they might just say No to get you off their back.
Wait a decent interval before sending a polite nudge (I wait 2 weeks with a new publication), and then wait again. Don’t sit around in the meantime — get on with submitting your next idea to your next market!
It’s not your idea, it’s you
Editors get a sense of what someone is like from the way you frame your messages. Do you show respect for their time? Do you sign off politely? They want good ideas, but they also want someone who will be easy to work with. So if you come across (however unintentionally) as arrogant or abrupt or demanding or sexist, your idea won’t save you. Read your note to someone who will give you an honest assessment of how you sound.
Pro tip: remember the editor is always right!
Dan Brotzel (@brotzel_fiction) is author of a collection of short stories, Hotel du Jack, and co-author of a new comic novel about an eccentric writers’ group, Kitten on a Fatberg (Unbound). For 10% off your order, quote KITTEN10
This article first appeared on Funds for Writers