4 Reasons Editors Keep Rejecting Your Work

Photo: Anna Shvets/Pexels

You see the email notification flash up on your screen. The editor has left you a note or responded to your pitch. Excitement and anticipation begin to rise as you open up the response.

“Thanks for sending this our way, but we are going to pass on this one.”

The excitement quickly fades, replaced by a mix of disappointment and anger.

How dare the editor pass on my work?

When an editor rejects you, it’ easy to take it as a personal attack. You’ve likely poured your heart and soul into your work, leaving everything you’ve got to give on the page. To have it rejected without reason — there are reasons, which will become clear very shortly — hurts, bad.

Newsflash: It’s rarely personal.

I know this because, as Editor-in-Chief of a popular publication, I reject 100’s of pieces a month, and I’ve never once done it maliciously or out of spite. I’ve also experienced many, many rejections myself as a writer. So as someone who sits on both sides of the fence, I understand the disappointment. But I also know that the fault likely lies with you, the writer.

The truth is you’ve likely committed one of the following offenses.

Dear writer, I didn’t spend hours fine-tuning the publication’s submission guidelines for personal enjoyment. It was a long, arduous process that returned no joy at all. No, I did it to help you get your work published. The reason submission guidelines are created is to assist you, the writer, and ensure you’re not wasting your time or that of the editors. They are designed to inform you about what the publication is looking for, the specific requirements, and how they want it delivered.

Stop ignoring them. I’ll repeat this for good measure: stop ignoring them.

Make it a point of practice to check and study a website or publication guidelines before you write and submit to them. Better yet, read a few of the recently published pieces to get a gauge on what they are looking for. When you know what a publication wants, and how they want it, you’re far more likely to write something that has a chance.

‘Seen it before’ titles

Titles are important for grabbing a reader’s attention. They are equally important in catching the eye of an editor.

Imagine seeing a whole list of email subject lines or a long line of article titles. Scrolling through them can quickly become a blur. That’s why a killer title is so vital. For example, when I’m scrolling through our long submissions list, which title is more likely to jump out at me?

How to Be a Better Writer
or
How to Write Better Articles: A Beginner’s Guide to Freelance Writing

Exactly.

A great headline can give even the most mundane work a chance of getting read by an editor. And on the flip side, even if your work is great, a terrible headline can shoot you in the foot.

Picking the first feature image you find

While your words do the bulk of the talking, the feature image is just as important, especially in the blogging world. Think of your headline and image combination as the teaser; does it sell your article to a) the audience, and b) the editor?

Trust me when I say that I see the same images over and over again. And if I recognize them, the reader likely will too. Don’t get complacent and throw the first stock image you see under some vague search term like “work.” If I immediately recognize the image, you’ve lowered your chances. While I may have the time to go and find a new one, especially if I love the story, in most cases I don’t have the time nor patience to do so.

Don’t undermine your work with crappy, overused images.

Mistakes in the first line or paragraph

If I open up your submission and see mistakes in the first sentence, line, paragraph, or, even worse, the headline, what impression do you think that presents of your work? It tells me the rest will also be full of errors (even if it isn’t), leaving me a lot of work to do to tidy it up and bring it up to the required levels.

Result? Hard pass.

Sure, it’s an editor’s job to do this kind of work, but only to a point. Your submission is one in a long line that needs looking over, and time is of the essence. If your work screams, “I need a lot of help,” I’m moving on to the next one.

While nothing is ever guaranteed, avoiding these errors will at least improve your chances.

When the editor has less reason to say no, you’ve given your words a fighting shot.


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Photo: Anna Shvets/Pexels

You see the email notification flash up on your screen. The editor has left you a note or responded to your pitch. Excitement and anticipation begin to rise as you open up the response.

“Thanks for sending this our way, but we are going to pass on this one.”

The excitement quickly fades, replaced by a mix of disappointment and anger.

How dare the editor pass on my work?

When an editor rejects you, it’ easy to take it as a personal attack. You’ve likely poured your heart and soul into your work, leaving everything you’ve got to give on the page. To have it rejected without reason — there are reasons, which will become clear very shortly — hurts, bad.

Newsflash: It’s rarely personal.

I know this because, as Editor-in-Chief of a popular publication, I reject 100’s of pieces a month, and I’ve never once done it maliciously or out of spite. I’ve also experienced many, many rejections myself as a writer. So as someone who sits on both sides of the fence, I understand the disappointment. But I also know that the fault likely lies with you, the writer.

The truth is you’ve likely committed one of the following offenses.

Dear writer, I didn’t spend hours fine-tuning the publication’s submission guidelines for personal enjoyment. It was a long, arduous process that returned no joy at all. No, I did it to help you get your work published. The reason submission guidelines are created is to assist you, the writer, and ensure you’re not wasting your time or that of the editors. They are designed to inform you about what the publication is looking for, the specific requirements, and how they want it delivered.

Stop ignoring them. I’ll repeat this for good measure: stop ignoring them.

Make it a point of practice to check and study a website or publication guidelines before you write and submit to them. Better yet, read a few of the recently published pieces to get a gauge on what they are looking for. When you know what a publication wants, and how they want it, you’re far more likely to write something that has a chance.

‘Seen it before’ titles

Titles are important for grabbing a reader’s attention. They are equally important in catching the eye of an editor.

Imagine seeing a whole list of email subject lines or a long line of article titles. Scrolling through them can quickly become a blur. That’s why a killer title is so vital. For example, when I’m scrolling through our long submissions list, which title is more likely to jump out at me?

How to Be a Better Writer
or
How to Write Better Articles: A Beginner’s Guide to Freelance Writing

Exactly.

A great headline can give even the most mundane work a chance of getting read by an editor. And on the flip side, even if your work is great, a terrible headline can shoot you in the foot.

Picking the first feature image you find

While your words do the bulk of the talking, the feature image is just as important, especially in the blogging world. Think of your headline and image combination as the teaser; does it sell your article to a) the audience, and b) the editor?

Trust me when I say that I see the same images over and over again. And if I recognize them, the reader likely will too. Don’t get complacent and throw the first stock image you see under some vague search term like “work.” If I immediately recognize the image, you’ve lowered your chances. While I may have the time to go and find a new one, especially if I love the story, in most cases I don’t have the time nor patience to do so.

Don’t undermine your work with crappy, overused images.

Mistakes in the first line or paragraph

If I open up your submission and see mistakes in the first sentence, line, paragraph, or, even worse, the headline, what impression do you think that presents of your work? It tells me the rest will also be full of errors (even if it isn’t), leaving me a lot of work to do to tidy it up and bring it up to the required levels.

Result? Hard pass.

Sure, it’s an editor’s job to do this kind of work, but only to a point. Your submission is one in a long line that needs looking over, and time is of the essence. If your work screams, “I need a lot of help,” I’m moving on to the next one.

While nothing is ever guaranteed, avoiding these errors will at least improve your chances.

When the editor has less reason to say no, you’ve given your words a fighting shot.

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