Rejection is an inevitable part of freelancing. But it doesn’t matter how many times you’re told “don’t take it personally”, when you see an email from an editor that says “thanks but no thanks”, your heart will sink.
While there is lots of practical advice you can follow to get better at pitching, I’m going to assume you already put as much effort as you possibly could into articulating your idea. Hopefully you spent a considerable chunk of time writing your pitch. Maybe you sent it to one or more journalist friends to check for typos. Given the effort you put in, it’s totally reasonable to feel deflated when your idea doesn’t land.
A few weeks ago, hot on the heels of a rejection of an idea I’d been assured was amazing by some journalist pals, I asked Twitter what their least favourite rejection line is to get from an editor. Personally, I hate “I’m not sure that this is that interesting” because obviously if I didn’t think the idea was interesting then I wouldn’t have pitched it. “This wouldn’t interest our audience” feels like a less personal way of saying the same thing. Here are some of the worst responses:
The thing that struck me about these responses is that they are either straight up rude, or just really unhelpful. If you’re going to take the time to reply (and, to be clear, a rejection email is much better than being aired), then why not add in a justification so that the writer can improve with their next pitch? It can even be a stock template “this doesn’t fit our publication” or “we’ve commissioned something similar recently”. Replying with a one or two-word response doesn’t do anything other than making the person who receives it feel crappy.
I appreciate that editors are busy people-I myself am an editor, and Monday morning email dread is real-but at the end of the day, if someone has taken the time to seek you out with a personalised well-thought-out pitch specific to your publication (as opposed to a generic copy and paste job), the least you can do is dignify it with some constructive feedback. Maybe that’s naive of me-what do you think? Hit reply and let me know.
Then again, some Twitter users replied saying that they didn’t feel the majority of the rejections shared in the thread were that bad. Ella Glover (@ellajglover) reminded us that:
People like Ella are clearly better at detaching their ideas from their self-worth. But if you’re more like me and you get upset when someone says your idea isn’t very interesting, then feel free to wallow. After that, though, make sure you pitch it to someone else who will hopefully think it’s interesting. That’s what I did, and this week a *dream* publication came back to me with a positive reaction to the idea (it’s not technically been commissioned yet, but it’s still exciting to get a response from a place I’d never have dreamed of pitching to six months ago).
… in editing
I edited this interview with Still Corners, who spoke to Alastair Lockhart about their new album The Last Exit, as well as this great rebuff to the terrible Caitlin Moran article about Harry Styles: Hana Kelly said ‘ Harry Styles is standing on the shoulders of chiffon’.
… in writing
Pitches: 4 (1 follow-up, 3 repitches)
Commissions: 0.5 (still negotiating terms)
Articles written: 1
I wrote a first draft of the big commission I secured before Christmas, how exciting!
Articles published: 0
… in listening/watching
The Indiependent launched a brand new podcast ‘Indiependent Thinking’, headed up by the brilliant Opinion editors Jacob, Tara and Olly. Give it a listen.
I liked ‘ A Year of Misinformation ‘ on BBC Radio 4, which was a look back at false stories that went viral online last year and the real-life harm they caused.
I also recorded an episode of a podcast with Jobs Bored — make sure you’re following them on Twitter for when the episode drops next week.
… in reading
- Isabelle Jani-Friend’s ‘My life expectancy is 44. This is how I’m dealing with losing a year to Covid’ was super poignant
- Niamh Ingram’s piece for MixMag ‘Will music festivals actually happen this year?’ was an informative albeit depressing read
- Esther Newman’s ‘Women are cosplaying their favourite fashion eras on TikTok & we love it’ for Refinery29 was absolutely fabulous, darling
- Like many Brits I have very fond childhood memories of watching Dick & Dom in da Bungalow in front of the telly on Saturday morning, so Amelia Tait’s piece on the history of gunge for VICE was amazing
- Kaiya Shunyata’s Lithium Magazine piece ‘We need to talk about the “Good for her” genre’ was a thought-provoking read about problematic white female protagonists in cinema
- This piece in The Economist about tech and democracy is important: “The world must seek a better way of dealing with speech online that allowing tech oligopolies to take control of fundamental liberties.”
- There’s a gorgeous structure to Rafael Behr’s The Guardian article ‘I thrived on the tension and drama of British politics. Then I had a heart attack’
- Jonathan Nunn’s longread for 1843 ‘Gulp! The secret economics of food delivery: How DoorDash and Deliveroo are changing the way we eat’ was incredible
Originally published at https://thepeakdistrict.substack.com.