You have probably researched how to make the perfect pitch. You found your ideal publication. You crafted a fantastic pitch, sent the query off to the editor…and nothing happened.
It’s a problem that plagues a lot of new freelancer writers and many are unsure about how to tackle it. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with an unresponsive editor.
When I was first presented with this problem, I was scared to chase up the query. I felt that my actions would be rude, and would earn me a bad reputation with the editor. My first reaction was to simply wait for the editor to get back to me. I mean, they have to sometime – right?
Unfortunately, this is not the ideal approach to dealing with editors. You have to understand that an editor’s job does not consist of watching their inbox with glee, waiting for people to talk to them (if it did, I know what job I’d be applying for!). Editors’ jobs can consist of dealing with in-house writers, checking the publication’s layout, and ordering posts for schedule. Sometimes, it gets to be too much, and your email can get lost or forgotten during the workflow. The best way to remind the editor that you’re there is to send follow-up emails.
But, is it rude? While it is true that emailing an editor every 20 minutes may cause them to delete their email account, and hunt down where you live, timing your emails appropriately can turn your emails from annoying jabs to a simple check-in.
So, how do you pace your emails?
First of all, you need to decide how long your query life is. A ‘query life’ is how long your query will be left in the hands of an editor. When this life expires, you move on to another editor. Ideally, your query life should have a minimum of two weeks, to give the editor some wiggle room. My personal query life is a month. Some publications have guidelines that state how long it takes them to respond to queries. If they do, that should be your query life.
Another idea is to include a statement at the top of your query that states:
Due to the nature of sp*m filters, please confirm receipt.
(Note: Don’t include the correct spelling of the word spam in your email because that, too, may set off spam filters.)
Since spam filters can cause lots of communication problems, include your phone and fax numbers in your correspondence to editors.
If you do not hear from them within a few days, it’s fine to send a follow-up to see if they received your query.
If, by the end of the query life, they haven’t yet accepted or rejected your query, send them a follow-up email. It should not be lengthy – just a quick message to say you are checking in on the status of your query. Gently remind them of the date you sent it.
If the editor still doesn’t respond to your emails, you will need to send them a new email, letting them know you will need to start sending the query to other publications should the editor not reply. Don’t be rude or forceful. Be professional and friendly. If the editor actually wants your work, this email will get them to reply. If they don’t, it’s time to move on to another editor.
What if the query life expires on an editor you really want to work with? Perhaps they run the magazine you’ve been dying to join for months now. You may be tempted to continue sending reminders until they finally catch wind of your pitch. The problem with this, however, is that the editor may have not replied because they weren’t interested. At this point, not only is clinging to the editor a waste of time, but you also have a high chance of angering them.
Instead of latching on to one editor, consider moving the pitch to another suited publication. Just because your favorite editor didn’t respond to your original pitch does not mean it has to be your only pitch to them. Next time you have another good idea, or when you’ve gained more recognition, pitch it to the same editor and see if they pick it up.
Always remember to let go if it seems futile. A professional freelancer, especially one who writes for a living, cannot afford to cling to a single editor. While you can – and should – keep in touch with the editor, make sure to spread your net wide. Who knows what other gigs you may land?
S.E. Batt is an author and freelance writer. When he’s not creating and submitting non-fiction to a variety of different websites, he’s imagining characters in fictional worlds, and documenting them for everyone to read. He appreciates cats, tea, and a good keyboard, although not all at the same time.