Finding a publication for your (rejected) story idea
You’ve spent time crafting a query letter for a magazine, newspaper or website. You get rejected (or worse, silence), so where to from here? It can be hard to think of where else to pitch the story that you thought was a perfect fit for a particular publication.
Finding a publication for your (rejected) story idea
My pitch acceptance rate is fairly average I think – it hovers around 30 – 40%. But that means there’s a hell of a lot of pitches that I’ve spent time on, which don’t get picked up the first time around. It wasn’t until a writer friend of mine asked if I re-pitched all my ideas that I had a realisation.
I wasn’t re-pitching any of my ideas
If I got silence or a rejection, I just moved on. I didn’t try to place that story anywhere else.
I think this is a big mistake. If you’re taking the time to write a query letter for an editor, you also need to spend time trying to find a home for that article if it doesn’t get commissioned initially.
I know it feels like there are barriers, such as:
My story won’t fit anywhere else
I initially found it difficult to think of where else I might be able to place rejected article ideas. I think this is because as freelance writers we are constantly told that we need to analyse publications and make sure our pitch is the perfect fit.
This is slightly controversial, but I think this is part of the problem – we spend so long getting familiar with the publication we want to write for that it’s hard to think where else the piece might be placed.
Your pitch just has to be good enough
Your pitch doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect. All your query has to do is entice and intrigue an editor to want to learn more.
Earlier this year I came across some great research where the authors had discovered something new about emotional eating. I know many editors love stories that include recent research or statistics that shed new light on old issues, so I pitched the idea.
Despite my belief in the story, I got three rejections/silence from publications that I have previously written for. Then I pitched to a magazine that I have never read and got a yes.
You can pitch to a magazine you don’t read or haven’t read
I know. I know. This one is controversial. I know everyone says it’s best practice to thoroughly analyse a magazine or newspaper or website, and all editors will say they want writers who know their readers.
But the truth is, to make a living as a freelance writer you have to be efficient. Spending hours analysing one magazine for one pitch isn’t necessarily the best use of your time (unless of course you get commissioned for that magazine again and again).
In the past year I’ve had multiple pitches accepted by publications that I don’t read or haven’t ever read.
This is because I’ve used ideas that are not dependent on a particular magazine’s style or voice – I’ve used the news peg of a recent study or a new venue opening.
Some people may say that the time I spent re-pitching the same story to different publications could have been spent thoroughly researching one publication and really nailing the message. But the truth is, in the past I’ve spent hours analysing a magazine only to send off a query that has taken me a long time to write, and my ideas still hasn't been commissioned.
These days I’m going for good enough.
And the other thing I’m doing? I’m channelling my inner JK Rowling and am relentless in pitching my ideas that haven’t found a home yet.
Just keep sending the pitch out
Of course you may need to tweak your idea depending on the publication, but don’t be afraid to send it back out into the universe.
I know of writers who have pitched the same story to different outlets for a year or more. Sometimes, they’ve landed a by-line at a huge publication for a story that was rejected by much smaller publications.
And sometimes the subject matter of a topic is so difficult it's hard to find a home for it. This is what Britni de la Cretaz found when she started pitching an article about homicide victim survivors in October 2016. Eventually it got picked up by an editor who really believed in the importance of the issue and her piece was published just a few days ago.
Don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons
In one of the online writers' groups I'm part of I see the same 10 or so publication names get suggested when someone is hunting for somewhere to place an article. There are so many magazines, newspapers and websites that are looking for great content and many pay decent rates. If you haven’t found a home for some of your rejected ideas, spend an hour or two searching for publications that may be interested.
Of course, if you’re getting multiple rejections for the same idea, then maybe it’s time to look at that idea. Does it have the ‘so what’ factor? What’s the hook? Why would readers want to know about this idea?
It’s a delicate balance between putting in enough work for pitches and queries, but not too much. It’s something that I’m still working on. But since I’ve been more pragmatic with my pitches, my acceptance rate has increased. My queries don't always get commissioned the first time around, but usually by the fourth or fifth attempt, there's a 'yes' sitting in my inbox.
What do you think? Do you re-pitch your ideas that have been rejected?