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ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Editor commissioned me then went quiet. Help!”

by Rachel Smith
30 May 2018

I recently pitched a new editor. He liked one of my ideas, commissioned me quickly and I got cracking. The piece was filed just before deadline, but that was 10 days ago and I still heard a peep from the editor. Should I assume no news is good news and send my invoice? Do I wait for feedback? Or assume he hates it and doesn’t want to tell me? I’m sweating buckets. Anon

Firstly, congrats! Getting commissioned from a new editor isn’t easy the first time you pitch. But your next step is to follow up, sharpish. If you’ve been putting it off, I understand why. It’s a tricky balancing act between trying to get an answer, and feeling like you’re bugging an editor you know is busy as hell.

Because some editors get in excess of 400 emails a day, it’s understandable that sometimes, weeks can go by before you get replies to emails. Even so, it’s bloody nerve-wracking. Especially when you’re waiting to hear on a story that’s been commissioned and filed. Is it good to go? Does it need edits? A complete re-write? You want to tick it off your list and move on, right? Trouble is, you’re in limbo until you know.

Playing devil’s advocate, there’s every chance they a) didn’t receive it; b) it fell through the cracks and was accidentally deleted, which is easy to do or c) they’re on deadline and haven’t had a chance to open it, much less respond.

But after filing copy, if you haven’t heard back within five business days, I’d forward the original email and attached copy saying something like, ‘Hi [Editor], just checking to see if you received the copy I filed a week ago? Here it is again in case it slipped through the cracks during a busy period. Looking forward to your response / feedback’.

If you follow-up via email and you still haven’t had a reply a week later, pick up the phone. It’s the best way to find out where you and your piece stand. I hope in your case your follow-up email gets you the answers you seek!

Have you been in this situation – commissioned by an editor who suddenly goes quiet? How did you handle it?

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
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5 responses on "ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Editor commissioned me then went quiet. Help!”"

  1. Erin Delaney says:

    I’ve been in the opposite situation – the editor who’s swamped, with writers wanting feedback who I’d love to have gotten back to but have been busy putting out fires in every other direction but theirs.

    I’d offer different advice, and that is give the editor a chance to get back to you, they are very unlikely to have forgotten about you.

    Their deadlines may have shifted around, the piece may have shifted in the calendar and they haven’t had the capacity to let you know yet, or they’ve possibly been on unexpected leave and you’d simply be adding to their pile of unread emails to come back to.

    I’d always suggest giving them a fortnight before following up, that’s a fair berth on both sides where they can’t really expect you to not be wondering and you’ve given them plenty of time to get on top of any disasters – which, when you’re an editor, there are plenty of.

  2. Lisa T says:

    Also, helps to follow up with an easy, “Hi, just wanted to see if you have everything you need or if you needed anything further on this piece?” Although as a former editor, I would never have kept anyone hanging like that! Nobody should be sending through requests for more work to be done 10 days after receipt. A friendly follow-up email clears the way for you to send your invoice.

  3. Rachel Smith says:

    That is great advice Erin, I think it’s easy to panic as a freelancer – but you have to put yourself in the editor’s shoes.

  4. Rachel Smith says:

    Yes, Lisa T, after 10 days without a reply I’d assume no news is good news and send my invoice too 🙂

  5. This is an interesting thread – when I was an editor, I usually read a story and replied back to say it was a nice piece etc. Occasionally I got swamped and I got a gentle reminder from the writer. One thing to remember with a weekly deadline is that all the copy comes in at once (assuming that the writers are meeting the deadline) and occasionally I didn’t get back to everyone, or missed someone in the avalanche of copy.

    Now that I am freelancing, I very rarely hear back at all from commissioning editors. I send through copy to editors everywhere and it’s rare that I get even a ‘thanks, got it’. Occasionally I get a reply to ask for more information or to make a small change, but that’s about it. I sent through a piece to an editor 4 weeks ago, followed up and heard nothing. I send through an invoice the next day and figure that if they don’t like the piece they will get back to me before they pay me. The good thing is that I have an online cloud-based invoicing system, so I know when they have opened my invoice, so I assume that if I don’t hear back after that, it’s all good.

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