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Sunday, August 11, 2013

10 Reasons Why Your Pitch Got Rejected

I've been blogging about freelancing (specifically, about making more money in less time) for more than four years now. Occasionally, I bring up topics I've covered before because they're evergreen, or always relevant. 

Today's topic addresses something concerns both new and seasoned freelancers. It's the question of why--as in why did my query get rejected? Or why did you fail to get a response--any response--at all? 

First off, every writer gets rejected, so don't take it personally. Here are ten reasons your pitch failed to result in an assignment: 

1. You misread the market. Your idea may have been excellent, but it wasn't right for that particular publication. Remember, your query should have a "why-write-it" section that demonstrates why readers of this market will be interested in the subject. If you can't do that, pitch your idea somewhere else.  

2. Your editor actually loved the much that she's already assigned something similar to another writer, or has a piece like it in inventory waiting to be run. Sorry--you can't do anything about this reason, but at least you know it's not you. In fact, if you get a response telling you this, I'd start my new pitch with language like, "Good to know you already have a story like this in the works--you know what they say about 'great minds!'"  

3. She never got it. It wound up in her spam folder, or she overlooked it among the hundreds of email an editor receives on any given day. That's why following up is so critical. How can an editor respond to something she never received? 

4. You pitched an idea that would be assigned to a staff writer. Make sure you read the publication's most current guidelines so you know what types of work is assigned to freelancers. Whether you're pitching an online or print market, querying a section of the publication that's produced in-house shows that you didn't do your homework beforehand.

5. You didn't provide enough detail about how you'd approach the story. How long will the piece be? What kinds of sources will you interview? How will your structure the article? Will you include a sidebar or two? The more detail you provide, the easier it is for your editor to envision your piece--and say yes to you.

6. Your query is sloppy, whether it has mispellings, grammatical mistakes, or other glaring errors (like spelling your editor's name wrong). To an editor, sloppy query=careless freelancer. And honestly, your query is your first impression. Make a bad one and you may not get a second chance. 

7. You pitched too late, such as by querying a holiday idea to a national magazine now, in August. Or you offered to cover an event that's already happened, a mistake I made early in my freelance career. Consider the publication's lead time when pitching. 

8. The editor is overwhelmed--and hasn't had a chance to read it yet. That's another reason to follow up on every query you send. You're not being a pest; you're being a pro.

9. Your idea is nothing special. To set your query apart, don't pitch an idea like "five simple ways to lose weight." A unique or counterintuitive spin, like "eat more, weigh less" or "laugh yourself thin" is more likely to stand out--and sell.

10. Your timing is off. Maybe she's already assigned for the next two issues, and isn't ready to assign anything else. Maybe she has to cut her freelance budget and can't assign anything for a month or so. Either way, you can't do anything about it. What you can do is follow up and stay on her radar so when she is ready to assign, you're top of mind.

**Readers, I'm taking a brief hiatus from the blog for the next couple of weeks to work on Improvise Press' next two titles. (I may even sneak a few days' vacation in there, too.) 
Stay tuned for more info about them, and in the meantime, to learn more about how to set yourself apart from other writers, nab more assignments, and create long-lasting relationships with editors and clients and make money as a freelancer, check out my latest two books, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets or Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second EditionFor a limited time, you'll get half off both titles when you order directly through and use the discount code CHICKENS.

For an even better bargain, check out my series of short-but-packed-with-info ebooks, which are priced at $0.99 for a limited time. 


  1. Loved your book, Kelly. If I were a bit younger, I would seriously consider going full-time as a freelancer. I do a tiny bit now, some easy pieces for my City's PR department, but with a "regular" job and three kids 12 and under it's all I can handle...

    1. Thanks, Scott! I appreciate that. And with your schedule, any kind of freelancing is great! :) Let me know if you have any questions! :)