Life as a freelance writer can be frustrating. I spend hours coming up with article ideas; find exclusive and clever lines; track down interviewees and my pitches seemingly disappear into a black hole from which no communication, either positive or negative, ever appears.
The event horizon of the editor’s inbox sucks in my pitches and imprisons them. My story goes stale and my chances of seeing my piece in print disappears. Worse still, there is always a sneaking suspicion that the lead I've given away in my email is now being worked up into a news story by the publication’s own staff.
OK, I'm exaggerating now. Idea theft, in reality, does not happen very often. But the reality of pitching to numerous editors is part of the freelance writer life. I just never appreciated how big a chunk of my time it would take.
I've been incredibly lucky with my pitches and the editors who I've made contact with. But for every hundred good editors, there is a bad - or even an invisible counterpart.
The good editor
Yesterday, I nervously pitched to a rather large publication using a very generic email address I found on their website. My expectations were lower than Donald Trump's wig. Imagine my surprise when I received a response a few minutes later.
OK, the pitch wasn't successful but the editor responded, gave me constructive criticism on the pitch, told me what they were looking for and a better email address to use in the future. And he was encouraging. It may sound daft, but it really made my day. I now have a valuable insight and contact.
Such good editors are in the majority. They respond to enquiries and give tips on the nuances of their publication. It makes sense and saves everyone a lot of time and effort.
I've met a lot of good editors and they work for a range of publications. Maybe they appreciate that freelance writers can produce value-adding and unique articles. Maybe they understand, or remember, the endless freelance writer pitching process. Maybe they're all just thoroughly good eggs.
Whatever the reason, thank you, good editors.
The bad editor
Now, to the other end of the spectrum. The bad editor. I have a little more anecdotal evidence here.
I still remember getting the following response to a pitch in my early days of freelancing:
"This is not the sort of article we would ever consider publishing. It's drivel. Please do not contact me again."
Crumbs. I was rather upset by these disparaging remarks. I'd only pitched to the publication once before, using a generic address from the contact us page and received positive feedback. It came as a shock on both a professional and personal level. Especially as the pitch later found a home in another publication, so I don't think it could have been too diabolical.
The bad editor is in the minority. I have heard further anecdotal evidence of the bad editor persona from fellow freelancers, but these tales are few and far between. Just dust it off, keep on pitching and strike that individual off your contact list. Retain your professionalism.
The invisible editor
I appreciate editors are swamped with pitches on a daily basis. I appreciate they are incredibly busy. But occasionally, I would appreciate a response from the invisible editor.
I'm not talking about cold pitches or press releases that are fired to the masses (a method I never use if any editors are reading this). I'm talking about an ongoing conversation with an editor about an article. Research is done, interviews are in place and when the pitch is made: silence.
The editor has dropped off the face of the Earth. It's incredibly frustrating. Suddenly my "great idea" is not great enough to be published. Hmph.
There are two things to bear in mind regarding unresponsive editors: it's not personal and there's nothing you can do about it. This pitch may be your big break - but to an editor, it's just another one of dozens of articles they are responsible for on a daily basis. And here's the hardest pill to swallow - it may not be such an amazing idea after all.
Life as a freelance writer is a constant education. I have made mistakes, learnt from them and moved on. I've developed a thick skin from the bad editors, a wealth of knowledge from the good editors and a theory that the invisible editor is maybe too kind to become the bad editor and let me know that my pitch may just stink.
Hello. I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology
And I explain science with Lego in Sunday Science.
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