How and When to Follow-Up with an Editor
Coping with awful frustration is part and parcel of the travel-writer’s life. We’ve all encountered the ‘not hearing back’ problem countless times.
First, though, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. Were you asked to send your article on spec — or did you submit it purely on the wings of hope? If the editor did ask to see it, you’re perfectly justified in seeking an answer about what he or she plans to do with it.
The other big question is how long ago did you send it in? You should never expect an answer within a couple of days. It’s quite normal for editors to sit on an article for a month before getting back to you. Sometimes longer. If you were asked to send in the piece on spec — and a month has passed by — I’d suggest you email the editor immediately. Keep it simple…and above all, don’t be rude. I’d word it something like this:
I wondered if you’d had a chance to read my article on the Jazz Festival, submitted on (Date). As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it’s a time-sensitive article. If (publication) cannot use it, I’d like the chance to place it elsewhere.”
Even if the editor didn’t ask to see your piece ‘on spec,’ you could send such an email to jog their memory. If you receive no reply within the next week, resubmit your article to another of your targeted publications. And if you want to increase your chances of getting published, resubmit it to a number of publications.
No doubt quite a few students will be concerned about the protocol of sending out multiple submissions. I always get questions on this subject at our workshops. For instance, ”What do I do if more than one magazine wants to publish my article?”
Well, lucky you! If you’re ever in the fortunate position of editors competing for your work — and I never have been — my advice is to go for the big payer. One editor offers you $50 — and the other offers $500? Unless you’re a complete dimwit, it’s no contest, is it?
When I started out as a travel writer, I never had any delusion that a whole bunch of editors awaited my next submission with bated breath. Unless it was specially focused for a particular publication, I almost always sent an on-spec article — or a query — to three or four publications at the same time.
It’s a sad fact that some editors are completely discourteous. (Or as I’d truthfully say, ”pig bloody ignorant.”) Sometimes you’ll never even receive a standard rejection slip. You could hang on forever waiting for a reply. And you don’t make money that way.
That said, once you’ve developed a relationship with an editor (in other words, you’ve been published by that magazine), don’t do anything to mess things up.
Offer your big idea — or your article — to that editor first. Give them time to respond. If necessary, follow up with a polite email. If he or she isn’t interested, then launch into a full-scale assault on other publications.
And if by some lucky break you do ever get the dream scenario of two editors in a competing market wanting to publish your piece, you can always employ a similar get-out to this:
Thank you so much for your letter offering to publish my article on the Jazz Festival. Unfortunately I did not realize it would take quite so long for your magazine’s editorial department to get back to me. I honestly thought you weren’t interested in the article. As it was so time-sensitive, I submitted it to another publication. They contacted me straight away saying they wanted to use it.
I feel really bad about this. The only excuse I can offer is that I’m a fairly new writer and my eagerness to get published overcame my patience. I sincerely hope it will not prevent us working together in the future.”
Editors come, editors go. And don’t ever worry that your name will be on some kind of nationwide editorial blacklist. It won’t.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]