Psst: I know why your queries are being rejected
No one likes to be rejected. But it’s part of being a freelance writer. And, when you send five+ queries per week, rejection happens. Often
Here are five of the most common reasons editors pass on your ideas.
1. The idea isn’t fresh.
Editors use this phrase so often that freelancers cringe at the mere mention of the F-word. The demand for fresh ideas is unavoidable – and that means pitching an article about a tried-and-true topic or trend is going to lead to rejection.
To avoid the “it’s not fresh enough” brush off, work to come up with clever angles to hot topics. For example, when urban farming became a hot topic, I pitched an article on the increase in farm animals being dumped at animal shelters when homesteaders got tired of raising small livestock.
2. It’s not the right fit for the magazine.
You’d never pitch an idea about the best burger joints to Vegetarian Times, right? While this is an obvious example of an idea that will lead to certain rejection, there are more subtle instances when an idea is not a good fit like pitching a travel idea to an in-flight magazine for a destination the airline doesn’t service.
I used to write a regular feature for Entrepreneur about startups founded by college students. PR people started sending me pitches asking me write about their clients. At least 95 percent of the pitches I got were about businesses started by middle-aged men, not college students. Delete, delete, delete.
You can avoid these gaffes by studying a magazine closely to understand the kinds of articles editors are looking for.
3. The topic was covered in a recent issue.
It happens to all of us: In a burst of enthusiasm for an idea, we send a pitch to a magazine without doing our due diligence. One of the most memorable rejections I received was from an editor who said, “We love this idea. We loved it so much that we made it the cover story in our current issue. You might want to pick it up and read it.” Ouch.
Unless you have a crazy good memory like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory, you can’t be expected to memorize every article that every magazine has ever published. But you can check a magazine’s website and flip through the most recent issues at the library before sending an idea. If I’d spent five minutes looking at the website for the magazine I pitched, I would have noticed the cover of the current issue with my idea plastered across the front.
4. It’s not a good idea.
Sometimes, an idea just isn’t up to snuff. You might be pitching a topic that is too broad instead of a well-defined angle or an idea that is too ho hum to take up valuable space in the magazine.
While teaching classes and mentoring writers, I have discovered that we’re often too close to our own ideas to be impartial about them. If you’re not sure whether your idea has merit, solicit feedback before writing a query. A writing group, goal buddy, writing instructor or coach can help you tweak – or toss – an idea that lacks polish.
5. The query is poorly written.
A lot of good ideas are rejected because of poorly written queries. If an editor thinks the pitch is riddled with misplaced commas, passive voice and mixed metaphors, their next thought is, “How much worse would an entire article be?”
Your query is your introduction to an editor. It should be, pardon the pun, pitch perfect before it flies through cyberspace to an editor’s inbox. Write, rewrite, revise and revise a little more before hitting send. Spending extra time to write a great pitch will minimize your chances of rejection.