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What to Do When You Don’t Hear Back from Your Pitch

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May 1, 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

A lot of my freelance writing course students ask me what to do when they don’t hear back from an editor on a pitch they sent. They wonder if the editor ever received it, if it went to spam, if the editor hated the idea and that’s why they didn’t respond, or a number of other things that worry them.

I encourage freelancers to follow up on their pitches and their introductory emails to clients. I was an assigning editor (meaning I gave assignments out to freelancers) at magazines and websites for about nine years. Don’t let that idea you worked on die with that editor and publication.

Here’s why an editor hasn’t responded to your pitch and what to do about it:

  • The editor is no longer at that publication. It’s very challenging in this magazine industry where there are tons of mergers and layoffs happening but do your homework to make sure they’re still working at that publication.
  • Your pitch wasn’t right for the section of the magazine that editor works on. If you pitched Refinery’s beauty editor a politics story she or he might not pass that along to the correct editor. (Here’s how to find any editor’s name.)
  • It’s in their spam folder. Follow up!
  • It had a large attachment (don’t do this!) and they deleted it immediately because it took up space in their inbox.
  • They saw it and forgot about it. Follow up with a brief email and attach the original pitch to the bottom of the email. If you think the idea could be tailored for a different publication and it’s somewhat timely, I suggest saying something at the end like, “If I don’t hear from you by X date, I’ll assume you’re not interested and I’ll pitch to other publications.” This lets the editor know they should probably read your pitch to see if it works for them and if they don’t respond, you can still move on with your idea.
  • There were mistakes in your pitch and the editor doesn’t feel like replying to tell you.
  • They don’t have a freelance budget right now. The editor should get back to you if this is the case but he or she might be waiting to see if things change in the coming weeks or months.
  • They are really, really freaking busy. See above about mergers and layoffs. Many editors are now doing the jobs of three people and haven’t set aside the time to answer pitches from people they don’t know.
  • They thought it was a publicist’s pitch. Make it clear in your subject line with something like: FEATURE PITCH or ARTICLE PITCH: Potential Headline Here, or, name the section of the magazine you’re pitching so they know you’ve done your research. Here are examples of freelance article pitches that got assigned.

These are just a few reasons I’ve come across in my years of working at and writing for magazines. It’s very easy for an editor to miss a pitch when they’re scrolling through their emails. The most important thing you can do is follow up—I suggest email. I never answered my phone at the office in recent years and I’m guessing most editors don’t want you to call.

If the editor doesn’t respond again, revise the pitch for another outlet if you think it’ll work for a different magazine. There’s no need to let that hard work you spent researching an idea go to waste. It also doesn’t mean you can’t pitch that editor ever again. Give it shot in a few weeks with another article idea and try to see if you can make it even more relevant to their publication. Learn how to make more money freelance writing.

Like this freelance writing advice? You’ll love my Freelance Writing e-Course on Teachable. In 10 lessons that you can complete on your own time, you’ll learn the ins and outs of how to become a freelance writer—and get one-on-one help from me with your first article pitch. Enroll today!

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