Q&A: Why Are My Article Pitches Getting Rejected?

Travel writer pitches get rejected
31 January 2011 Post Author:
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Welcome to another installment of Ask The Editor!

Today I cull once again through the copious questions from my email inbox, and pull another one that I hear frequently enough that it belongs in an FAQ somewhere:

Q. Why do my article pitches and guest posting efforts get rejected? Sometimes I don’t even get a response!

A. Big sigh. I actually hear this question from writers and bloggers fairly frequently……and generally speaking there are a couple of reasons that are most commonly cited by fellow Editors.

When is ignoring a pitch the best choice? When I don’t want to crush someone’s dreams, or fall even further behind in my own job.

But before I answer, I first turn the tables on the questioner, and ask them three questions:

  1. Did you read enough articles from the outlet you’ve queried to believe that your article is a perfect fit for them?
  2. Are you qualified to write that article?
  3. Did you follow the submission guidelines to the LETTER?

You’d be surprised at how often the answer to at least one (if not all) of those questions is a “no, but….“.

The answer should never be “no” to any of those questions, and there are no “buts” allowed, period.

From the conversations I’ve had with a number of other Editors that I associate with both professionally as well as socially, nearly all of them echo my response.

They (and I) receive far more inappropriate or incorrectly submitted pitches than ones they can accept. Most agree that it’s almost always due to an article that is a poor fit for what they publish, one that demonstrates a lack of expertise on the subject, or the author simply failed to read their submission guidelines, let alone follow them.

Case in point: Here at TWE, I get at least one, sometimes two, pitches for guest posts on a daily basis. 99% of them demonstrate that the person pitching has not spent any time at all reading what we publish here, and also – remarkably – ignored the submission guidelines entirely.

Instead of following the instructions to send me their topic ideas and suggestions, they do what I specifically ask them to NOT do, which is send a full article. Further, they ignore my statement that we do NOT print destination articles, nor any that promote a specific travel supplier. And still I get full, 2000 word destination stories. Articles about the benefits of a particular travel insurance company. Reviews on overseas transportation companies.

And I don’t even want to get started on queries from someone who just took up writing or blogging last week, and, with almost no experience, wants to advise others on how to get started. Sigh. I do love enthusiasm, I don’t love having to say “no thank you”, whatever the reason.

And this is where it gets really difficultto respond, or to not respond?

A huge part of me – and this is another sentiment that many of my fellow Editors agree with – wants to write a nice, diplomatic, helpful reply telling them why we cannot publish their article, and offer suggestions for where they might try to pitch to instead. I actually used to do this for each submission, but it began taking up most of my day. I realized that I was getting far behind in my own schedule, and simply could not take time to respond to people who couldn’t take the time to follow the clearly written instructions, sad as I might be about that.

And yes, if you’re wondering, there is a small part of me that just wants to hit reply and say “REALLY??? What part of “no destination articles” and “please don’t send your article through this form” did you NOT understand???“…….sigh….but I would hate myself if I did that, and I don’t want to be in the business of crushing dreams.

Which is why many of us choose to simply not respond.

There are times when ignoring someone seems like a better choice than venting our frustration with them via email, or taking the time to be nice but running the risk of not completing all those tasks we’re constantly juggling in our busy days.

So the next time you’ve pitched an article to a publication or a blog, and haven’t heard back, ask yourself the three questions above. If you can honestly answer “yes” to both, then by all means do follow up with the Editor – your pitch may have simply fallen through some digital cracks.

But if you’ve answered “no” to either question, then quit blaming the Editor and make sure your next pitch is done correctly.

~ Trisha

A tough issue indeed, but I’d love to hear your opinions!

16 Responses to “Q&A: Why Are My Article Pitches Getting Rejected?”

  1. Maria Staal
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hey Trisha, great post! You bring up some important issues.

    I have never pitched a post and hardly ever have guest posts on my site, but I can understand how frustrating it must be that people don’t properly read and sent you inappropriate pitches. Especially when someone claims to be a writer, they should be able to properly read, as IMO those two things go hand-in-hand.

    I think a lot of it comes down to impatience these days. Everythings needs to be done instantly, so why take the time to read the submission guidelines?
    This is not as things should be, and it’s good that you point it out!

  2. Kara
    Twitter:
    says:

    I suggest having a cut-and-paste response to all of those folks who pitch you off-topic guest posts. Doesn’t have to be long – just a, “Hey, this doesn’t fit with my site. Please read my guidelines thoroughly before pitching again (link).”

    A little education to your clueless wanna-be guest writer might help save the rest of us from receiving off-topic pitches, too. :-)

    • Thanks Kara – that’s a great suggestion…..I think I’ll come up with a few different variations to suit the situations I most commonly encounter….and I’m all for educating the clueless, especially if it helps out other Editors and blog owners :-) Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Wendy
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great post!
    As I also edit a health and fitness magazine…I get the same issues as when I was strictly in the travel writing business. One of my favorites has to deal with length of the article. And the excuse always includes a “yeah but”… “My article is sooooo worthy that I just know you will want all 1097 words.”
    When we say 600 words…that’s what we mean. Funny thing about editors and the publishers. They mean what they say!

    Thanks for posting, Trisha!

    • Thanks Wendy! I suspect that part of the problem may lie with the fact that with fewer print publications (who’s guidelines and rules were decidedly strict!) more writers are turning to blogs to publish their stories, and many (many, many) blogs have no guidelines at all…..so some writers/bloggers are being negatively trained.

  4. Katie Hammel
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great post and excellent advice for writers. The most important things – READ the site and figure out what they do, and do not, publish. Then follow the submission guidelines, and make sure your idea is clearly outlined and that your email is free of typos.

    The most common reason I have for rejecting articles is because the idea just isn’t the right fit for our site. We don’t publish stories on individual hotels our tour operators, we don’t publish trip summaries, and we rarely publish pieces that focus on a single city, yet every day I get pitches for articles about specific hotels or for stories that are basically recaps of trips to very narrow destinations (like a small Midwest town, for example).

    I also used to get a lot of “I’d like to write an article about traveling light” or “about France.” I need a lot more information. There are a million posts about traveling light. What’s your angle? Or what, exactly, do you want to cover in France?

    We created an online pitch form that asks for a detailed outline of the proposed article, and that’s helped cut down on the more generic pitches. I also set up several canned responses in gmail so that when I pitch isn’t right, I can just click the button and the rejection pops into the email. That’s been a big time-saver for me.

    • Hi Katie….Thanks for your your vote of support for my rant! And I’ve heard a few others suggest Gmail for it’s ease of sending canned replies, good to know that you like it also….looks like I’ll have to check it out soon. :-)

  5. Julie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh yes, yes, yes, and THANK YOU.

    I spent four hours this morning reviewing 100+ articles in Matador’s submission inbox. Of those, only about five were something we’d consider publishing (and of THOSE five, I was only really grabbed by one).

    I sent out a form rejection letter; there was simply no way I could write a personal note to every person who submitted articles to explain exactly why we were rejecting them, though every single one of them was for one of the reasons you’ve indicated here: either the topic or format wasn’t aligned with our interests (which are pretty clearly stated on our submissions form), or the writing was unprofessional and poorly constructed.

    Within minutes of sending the rejections, I received a response from a writer who had this to say:

    “Thank you for the note. It would have been nice to at least include the title of my article, since I have submitted a few, but I suppose the mass mailing does not allow for such personalization.
    I am utterly discouraged for trying out again, as I am not really sure what it was that didn’t appeal to you about my writing.

    Oh well, thanks anyways.”

    This passive-aggressive response only reinforced for me that my decision was the right one. The editor-writer relationship is exactly that: a relationship. The writer’s got to make 50% of the effort.

    • Talon
      Twitter:
      says:

      Great response! I don’t know why someone would expect anything but a snarky answer with that kind of an email! LOL

    • Oh. My. God. I would have been stunned speechless by such a response. A writer that not only can’t follow guidelines and instructions, but doesn’t keep track of what they’ve submitted to whom? And then lays a guilt-trip on you? HUGE sigh. Most days an Editor’s job is a tough one, some days it’s enough to drive one to drink. I’m going to go have a beer now.

  6. Dear Trisha,
    You have written a very useful article. In initial days of pitching, I stumbled because I did not read the guidelines or previous articles on that site. Thankfully I got up on feet soon.

    P.S. I don’t blame you for not responding. Better than spewing frustration.
    Thank you for some tips that you gave me via the forum. They helped in pitching articles to websites/ magazines.

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