I know you’re busy. I’m just wondering if you’ve had time to read that story I sent you a couple of weeks ago. I sent a follow up email as well. Maybe you didn’t receive it? I’m sorry to bother you again, but I really like that story. I invested a lot of time in it. I’ll understand if you don’t want it, but I’d like to pitch it elsewhere if that’s the case. Right now I’m in publication limbo.
You’re busy. I get it. Another deadline looms. You’re expected to break new ground with every edition, unearth the next literary giant, get bigger and go viral. You have more competition than ever before but fewer staff and less advertising dollars to play with. You probably work for peanuts yourself, in a job which sounds glamourous at Uncle Billy’s barbeque but is really just a stressful grind. I bet you haven’t been to yoga for months and that pile of books you bought at Christmas time is gathering dust on your bedside table.
You’re busy. I get it. You have layouts to approve and artwork to agonise over, interns to supervise and lunch to skip. And that pesky email inbox is just one more job to do. An unsolicited story pitch is easy to miss among the daily influx of managerial memos and “please explain” requests from the finance department.
You’re busy. I get it. And even though your website says you accept editorial submissions, even listing an email address specifically for that purpose, you don’t really have time to take a chance on unknown writers. You have a stable of reliable freelancers you’ve been working with for years. They’re plugged into the zeitgeist, their social media profile attractive for circulation, and they meet deadlines. You like the idea of expanding the writing pool but it just isn’t practical.
You’re busy. I get it. You’ve made it to editor and it’s been years since you had to flog your own work. You’ve probably forgotten how soul-crushing it is for writers to tout for business, to churn out stories without a deadline and trawl for a print or online home for them, to fashion a pitch both pithy and professional, something not too familiar but not too stuffy, and find the right person to send it to.
You’re busy. I get it. So all the idiots who submit stories and ideas to you, graduates and house-bound mums, maybe some weirdos and maybe some hacks but maybe a hidden genius, they should know that a nil-response means nil interest.
But here’s the thing. Even if you don’t have time to entertain a newcomer’s attempts, to nurture an amateur through a rough first draft to reveal a possible diamond, it doesn’t take much to let them off the hook. That story you don’t have time to read might find a home somewhere else, even if only on their blog. All you have to do is hit reply and type in three little words “no thank you”. Sure, that’s blunt, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing. Maybe someone in the office knows how to set up auto-reply? If so, I’ve drafted a slightly longer response for you.
Dear graduate / mid-life crisis / nutter
Thank you for your email. Your idea for a story on labial piercing / the history of scrapbooking / alien dogs sounds very interesting. Unfortunately it’s not consistent with our editorial theme at this time.
Thank you for your submission and good luck finding a home for it elsewhere.
Very busy editor
Curiously, there’s a lot of advice available online for writers on how to pitch a story, but not much written to help editors once those pitches come flooding in. I hope you don’t mind me filling the void. I know you’re busy.
A freelance writer