To Catch an Editor

This past week, two fellow writers asked me my opinion about an editor not getting back to them about stories and/or pitches they were interested in.  The classic case of how do you catch an editor.

I’ll share a story of my own experience pitching to X Publication and trying to catch an editor.  I love X Publication, devour each issue, and desperately want to be in X Publication.  I discover a friend has a contact at X Publication.  I spend a lot of time drumming up the perfect pitches for the new back of the book section.  I send over two pitches.  One of the pitches, the editor at X Publication wants me to write a 200-word sample of how the story would actually look.  I do.  She takes it to her editorial meeting, it doesn’t get approved but she asks me to send more ideas.  My second pitch I think is pretty clever for the back of the book — something that appeals to the readers of X Publication.  She likes it, takes it to her editorial meeting, and it gets approved!  I am over the moon!  She writes back, “It’s set for Aug. 2009.  I’ll be in touch soon with details.”

And then silence.  Utter, deafening silence.  I email, I call, I ask advice of experienced freelance writers and top editors.  Months later, I realize that they re-designed X Publication and the back of the book feature I pitched is no longer in the magazine.  And thus the dead end with the story.

Editors are elusive creatures and I am one.  They are super busy, get 8 million emails, and only are reading parts of your email, at best.  I ask writers to remind me what story they’re talking about because I simply can’t remember.  Mondays and Fridays are bad times to catch an editor.  Mondays are full of meetings and Fridays you’re just trying to get your editing done and get out the door.

My advice when you’re a spot like this is to realize that for whatever reason some editors will never get back to you even if they “promise” you a story.  It sucks but it’s part of the game.  If I had a contract, maybe I would have some grounds to stand on.  Be persistent but don’t email every day.  Try calling but don’t call every week.  And then if all else fails, let it go.  Chalk it up to experience and move on.  Trust me, I was humbled by X Publication and it made me aware of what it must be like for the writers who email me.

Editors aren’t mean people who drum up ways of making you crazy as you agonize over their cryptic emails — even if it feels that way.  They are just trying to make it through the month of whatever issue they are working on and trying to plan at least 3 months worth of issues in one month’s time.  It is completely annoying to work on a pitch for days and then never hear from them or get promised a story and get utter silence.  I completely understand.

My advice:  Hang in there, be persistent, and if you don’t hear back, move on.  Keep writing, keep sending pitches, and keep your chin up.

If you have your own story to share about trying to catch an editor — successful or not — I would love to know about them.  Do share!  We can learn from each other.

6 Comments on “To Catch an Editor

  1. Great post. You’re dead on about following up and being persistent. Editors are busy and it’s all too easy for them to sometimes forget about you, so don’t let them forget. (Without being a jerk about it, of course.)

  2. Good post! It’s difficult sometimes to navigate this situation, and how you handle it with one editor might be too pushy/not pushy enough for other editors, no? Disappointment is part of this game, but like your earlier blog post says, you have to love it. And I do!

    • Very true. Some editors like reminder emails, unlike me, who feels like you’re stalking me if you email then call me. But a good rule of thumb is to be polite and be persistent. And never take it personally.

      My usual follow-up email goes like this, “I’m writing to follow-up on X pitch that I sent you. Please let me know if you’re interested or if I can take X pitch to other publications.” That usually gets me a response.

      Christy, what are some of your best and worst editor stories (and you don’t have to name names)?

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