Be Polite!—Honestly, you probably won’t get a response to most of your pitches. If you do get a rejection, keep your cool. You don’t even need to respond to the editor, but if you do, keep it to a quick, “Thanks for taking the time to read my pitch!” Don’t snark, don’t worry. Just move on.
How Long Should I Wait?—I have a background in the torturous world of genre short fiction submissions, where you’re often expected to wait weeks or months (or years…) to get a response. Pitching freelance isn’t like that, and you can turn things around much quicker. I still stick to a single submission at a time, but nudge an editor after three or four days if I haven’t heard anything. In my experience, interested editors will often respond to a nudge very quickly, so if you don’t hear anything within a day or two after that, it’s generally safe to pitch elsewhere. My nudge email is usually something like: “Hey! Just wanted to check in on this before I pitch elsewhere.” Pithy and concise.
They’re Gonna Say No—Most of your pitches will either get a) no response, or b) a no. Even if your pitch includes your Hugo Award and a bunch of top-tier bylines. Even if you’ve landed a piece at that outlet with that editor before. That’s just the reality of pitching stories. Move on! But, also, don’t give up. You’ll notice all of my examples were rejected before finding the right home—some were rejected multiple times. That’s normal. I’ve got a few dream venues (Hi, Waypoint!) I’m still trying to crack, and they’re the first ones I pitch (unless I think my story fits best at a particular venue).
Freelance is Tough—Most venues have staff writers who handle their shorter, opinion-based content. It’s just cheaper and easier to get a staff writer to create a post on why Sylvain is the juiciest himbo in Three Houses than it is to hire and onboard a freelancer. Take a look at the type of content the venue is publishing by freelancers and pitch the right stories to the right editors.
Keep Tabs on Editors—On any given day, you can find editors on Twitter gabbing about the types of stories they want to see in their inboxes. It’s fun (and important!) to work on your darling stories, but chasing those pitches that overlap your interests and an editor’s can be a good way to get your foot in the door.
Editors Will Make Your Work Better—Trust me: Trust them. I’ve levelled up big time by bringing a collaborative and open attitude as a freelance writer. Some editors work with a light touch, others do major structural and developmental passes before they even think about a line edit. Go along with it, ask questions if you don’t agree with a change, and use it as an opportunity to learn from a pro. Chances are, their heart is in the right place.
Where do I send my pitch?—As I suggested earlier, google the outlet plus “pitch guidelines,” and that’ll give you all the information you need. If the outlet doesn’t have clear pitch guidelines, check their masthead (again, by googling the outlet’s name plus “masthead”), which should point you toward the right editor.