by Rachel Smith
17 June 2015
I’ve been freelancing part-time for 8 years but am now in a position where I can work full time. Up until now, I’ve only had one main client. I’ve tried to expand my portfolio but pitching to various editors has been unsuccessful – by that I mean, no rejections; just no replies at all. I have 8 years worth of feature articles under my belt but this seems to have made no difference.
I’m always very targeted in my pitches – read the publication, understand the type of stories they publish and pitch accordingly. What am I doing wrong? Am I getting lost in the inbox mountain of emails? How long before I can send a follow up? Can I ring an editor to ask for feedback on why a story idea was not accepted (or even just ask if they received it – no response means I don’t even know if they received it let alone rejected it!)? HELP! K
We’ve written a lot about pitching before, which you might have spotted – if not, read this blog post on pitching do’s and don’ts and this one, about what to do when you never heard back after sending a pitch. However, as we get asked variations of this question a fair bit I put yours to an editor I know who runs a leading weekly magazine, just to get a perspective from someone on the other side of the fence. She said the following:
“To be honest, if you’re pitching and not getting replies at all, your idea is just not hitting the mark. It’s either not good enough or your execution isn’t right. I usually try to send a thanks but no thanks email, but often there’s just too much inbox overflow these days for editors to handhold people and give them feedback. Most just don’t have the time – especially on a weekly. If the idea is right, if it’s good, new and fresh, we’ll grab it. We’ll get straight back to you with a yes. Or at least, within a couple of weeks. (Maybe a bit longer if you’re pitching a monthly mag).
Other reasons you might not be having luck is if you pitch ideas we get over and over (like yoga stories, for instance. I get SO many). If you’re a writer we’ve worked with before, we’ll always look at your ideas but it is harder for new writers. And while this may sound a bit harsh, if you haven’t got print credentials or clippings you’re probably going to struggle. We’ll always look at writers who’ve been published in print, not just online. That’s what I want to see. It’s like with bloggers – they’ve got loads of words published online, sure, but they usually don’t have the skillset we need to put a print feature together, so we’d rather work with print journalists.
It’s also about how you pitch. Every time you pitch, you’re basically asking for a job so you have to put a bit of effort into it. Some of pitches we get, we can’t believe are from published writers. We like to see a good headline – think in coverlines, make the editor’s job easy – and a sell, and a stand-first. Plus a few dotpoints on who you’d speak to. Even better if you can hang your pitch off a recent study. And if you say, ‘I saw you did a story on x, and following on from that, here’s another angle…’ that’s good. Often it’s hard to get fresh new angles from stories we do a lot.
The other thing is… well, attitude. If you’ve got a bit of attitude in your email or we suspect you’ll be difficult to deal with, you might also be put to one side. We do find sometimes that freelancers who’ve been out of the workplace for a long time can forget about workplace niceties so your tone when you pitch is something to consider too.
From my perspective, I’m not sure about the follow-up phone call after a pitch. Everyone will just end up feeling awkward, but that’s just me!”
So there you go. Some editors are okay with a follow-up phone call, but others aren’t. It’s trial and error, but if you’ve put a LOT of effort into your pitch and you still haven’t heard back within a couple of weeks (for a weekly) and a month (for a monthly mag), we reckon a quick buzz to the editor in question would be okay.
What do you guys think? Have you got any extra tips for K?