August 12, 2022
A lot of my freelance writing course students ask me what to do when they don’t hear back from an editor on a freelance 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 any other number of things that can mess with their confidence as freelance writers.
I encourage freelancers and my freelance writing coaching clients to follow up on their pitches and on their introductory emails to clients. I was an assigning editor (meaning I gave assignments out to freelancers) at national magazines and websites in New York City for about nine years. I’ve also acted as a freelance Editor-in-Chief for several print publications. I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t give up if you don’t hear back from an editor on your pitch. (If you’re wondering why a freelance pitch was rejected, I’ve got some answers here.)
When an editor ignores your freelance writing pitch, it can be very stressful and frustrating. Here are some possible reasons why an editor ignored your email pitch and what to do about that follow up email strategy.
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.
If you pitched Refinery’s beauty editor a politics story she or he might not pass that along to the correct editor. That’s why it’s important to find the best editor for a particular section by searching in a magazine’s masthead if possible, following editors on Twitter, or looking at their LinkedIn profile pages. (Here’s how to find any editor’s name.)
Follow up and include the original pitch in the bottom of the email. Following up on freelance pitches is one of the most important things you’ll do as a freelancer. Busy editors skim their emails and often address pressing issues. They might flag your email if they see it and mean to get back to you later but forget about it. Or, it’s possible that their company has strict spam filters and your email found its way into that folder. The editor may have never seen your pitch in the first place!
Don’t do this! Don’t send your photo or a large file or photo. The reason you didn’t hear back from the editor might be because they deleted it immediately because it took up space in their inbox. (Check out my e-book 100+ Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers to get advice on best practices when pitching editors.)
Send a follow up email with a brief note checking in to see if they were interested in the freelance pitch 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.
And the editor doesn’t have the time or energy to let you know by replying to you. Those could be spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, inaccuracies in the pitch or, perhaps you spelled the editor’s name incorrectly. (Learn best freelance pitching practices in my online courses.)
The editor should get back to you if they don’t have a freelance budget at the moment but he or she might be waiting to see if things change in the coming weeks or months and they can assign articles out again. Send a follow up email anyway to see if they need freelancers now, and then set a reminder to do a follow up note again in a few months.
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. Shooting over a follow up email two or three times with your pitch might be absolutely necessary before you hear back on your pitch.
If you’re a writer pitching a freelance idea to an editor, 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 send a follow up email and forward your initial freelance pitch.
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. Email that editor again 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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