An award-winning journalist with advice on the most important things you can do when waiting for a response from an editor on your pitch.
I think I speak for everyone when I say waiting for a response to pitches sucks.
If you’re not waiting for an editor to get back on a proposal, you’re waiting for a check, for the article to finally get into print, for the edits to come through, for the source to return from vacation, for any number of things in a given day.
The hardest wait for freelance writers, I think, is when it’s from an editor on an idea that is timely, and of course, marketable elsewhere.
While you’re waiting for a response, here are a few things you can do to keep you from losing your mind.
1. Send invoices
You know that work you completed last week and didn’t invoice for? Do it now. Most writers, including me, admit to being complete louses when it comes to accounting, paperwork, and most other forms of simple organization. In fact, I once had an editor follow up with ME, asking, “Hey, don’t you want to get paid? Where’s your invoice?” So while you’re waiting for that genius idea to sell, send some paperwork through.
2. Research more ideas
Nothing too heavy. Just little tidbits that you can jot down into your idea file while you wait. You do have an idea file, don’t you? If you don’t, get one. It can be a binder with several bits of paper or a notebook where you jot down random thoughts. I have two. One’s a notebook where I jot down everything that ever pops into my brain and the other is a selection of stories that I actually plan to execute in the next year. I cross them out as they get done. If you do nothing else while waiting for a response, start thinking about the next story you want to work on.
3. Send out the rejects
At any given time, it’s likely that you’ll have at least a couple of queries that have come back rejected, but that you haven’t sent out again yet. Do it now.
4. Study the market
Or just read. Or go to the library and browse through obscure titles. It might give you ideas for new pieces, or you might find a publication that you feel you can write for. Either way, just make a habit of reading magazines in your downtime. It’ll help in your marketing, and it’ll also make you a better writer.
The periods of waiting for a response are usually when I’ll go on an organizing mission—I’ll rename all the files on my computer, I’ll create folders and actually sort stuff into them, I may even finally take a look at that ever-growing stack of papers on my desk. You don’t have to go completely ballistic, but it might be a good time to tidy up your workspace.
6. Intensify your marketing efforts
When you’ve just sent a pitch you’re confident in, that’s a great time to keep the momentum going. Pitch more! What better way to spend the time waiting for a response than by pitching more and selling more? I find that almost every time I send out queries, I send them in batches. When you’re having a good submission day, it’s a fantastic idea to make use of it and send out as many pitches as you can.
7. Write something meaningful for you
If you’ve got no further deadlines, and you’re still waiting to hear from about a dozen editors, it might be a good idea to work on essays or stories that are important to you but have a 50-50 chance of selling. Essays typically need to be written first before they can be submitted and sold, so one of the things I do when I’ve done some intense marketing and am waiting for my schedule to fill up is to work on essays and humor pieces.
8. Hone your skills
There’s a lot coming up rapidly that can directly translate into income for freelancers– multimedia, search engine optimization, content management, etc. Keep updated on the trends in the marketplace and get up to speed in your downtime.
Editors can take weeks, sometimes months to get back on ideas sent their way. Make sure you’re doing something productive in the meantime.
While you’re waiting for a response, you could also read a series of free case studies I’ve put together that detail how I broke into The New York Times, how I sent pitch after pitch (and received rejection after rejection) before becoming a regular writer for TIME, and how I made more than $10,000 from a single story in a year. Yours for the taking. For free. Sign up here.
How to Pitch: Pitching guidelines for 200+ publications
We know that finding markets to pitch your story ideas, understanding what they’re looking for, and making sure they pay an amount you’re comfortable with can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the job. So we’ve tried to make it easier for you.
Here’s a list of publications, organized by subject and with a note of their pay rates, each with a link to their guidelines.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Publisher, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the publisher of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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