Search This Blog

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Turn a Rejection into Two Opportunities: The 24-Hour Rule

If you freelance for magazines, you use a query letter to get your foot in the door and introduce yourself to an editor. But you can't develop a relationship with an editor until you write an article for her. Right?

Wrong! When you employ what I call the “the 24-hour rule,” you can start a relationship with an editor even before you get your first assignment.

When I started freelancing fulltime 14+ years ago, I came up with the 24-hour rule to help keep me focused. Within 24 hours of receiving a rejection (what I call a “bong”) from an editor, I'd do two things:

First, I’d tweak the query and send it to another market (what I call a "resub"). That gets my query letter back "out there"--it won't do me any good sitting on my hard drive. Second, I’d send a new query to the editor who had rejected me, starting with language like, “Thank you very much for your response [not rejection!] to my query about women and weight-lifting. While I’m sorry you can’t use the idea at this time, I have another for you to consider.” Then I’d include my new query.

The 24-hour rule enabled me to transform each rejection into two new opportunities. It also kept my name in front of editors I was pitching, and hopefully impressed potential clients with my persistence and professionalism. Just as important, it eliminated the question of “what should I do now?” that I would have otherwise wondered about after receiving a bong. I didn’t get derailed by the rejection; I simply used it as opportunity to apply my 24-hour rule.

If you're not freelancing fulltime, the 24-hour rule may be too ambitious. But what about a 48-hour rule? A three-day rule? A one-week rule? Choose the timeframe that works for you and your schedule, and start looking at those dreaded bongs as opportunities rather than rejections—and a way to create a relationship with an editor that will lead to your first assignment for her.


  1. Great way to have an editor give you a second glance while your name is (vaguely) fresh in his or her memory. Thanks.

  2. Been trying to send new query in response to a rejection then I got this, "Our editorial calendar is full for 2011. Try again after the first of the year."
    If magazines only accept queries during certain times of the year, then is it okay to not wait for a response on one before you send another? I feel like the way they operate, you only have time for one shot in a year.

  3. Hi, Carol--
    Well, I think you run the risk of overwhelming the editor...I'd send a note saying "thank you" for the information, and promise to pitch at the beginning of 2011. Then I'd make a note of it and pitch that first week of the year, referencing your email...showing that you're a pro and do what you'll say you do. You could also do a two-idea query if you want to pitch more than one idea at the time. That's what I'd suggest, anyway. :)

    Hope this helps!

  4. Thanks for this tip, Kelly. Great reminder. What about when you never hear back from an editor, as seems to be the case a lot these days? After what amount of time is it appropriate to send along a second query despite not hearing back?

  5. Hi, Joanna--

    I'd send a followup letter (see Aug 1, 2010 post) giving a timeframe to respond *before* sending a second query. If I still got no response from that, then I'd send a new query...but if I continued to have zero response, I'd cut bait and move on to more promising markets. Just my $0.02.