I have had a similar experience about six or seven times: I email an editor, and, after several dozen times of pitching articles to various of editors, I get a response. They find my pitch interesting, and say that it's a right fit for the paper or magazine.

Then, I type up the essay, send it in with due regards, and never hear from them again.

I pitch about a wide variety of things: atheism (not anti-theist, because that simply doesn't sell, but what atheist thought can mean, for example), political pieces, takes on cultural affairs nationally and locally (e.g., Black Lives Matter, and the heroin epidemic near city, respectively), things about cookery (maybe I am old-fashioned, but the articles about cookery are akin to Orwell's essay on making tea, which I found incredible).

But I cannot seem to get a single article accepted and printed. I contact editors, but good god do they never respond. I mean Noam Chomsky, world-famous political scientist, linguist, public intellectual, philosophy, etc., will respond to your email within the hour, but out of 45 editors, maybe one will reply with a "not interested" letter.

How am I to get my pieces in? Contact editors directly? What's the deal?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user Mar 10 '18 at 19:50

Are you in the US?

A primary model here is "I might be interested in you as long as you might have something I can use. I'll give you attention as long as it costs me nothing."

In other words, if you are a high school junior in the states, every college wants you to apply, but many lose interest once your application is in. If you apply for a job in the real world, you will have people interested in you until they see your resume. If you go onto a dating site, people will be interested in you until they look at your profile. If you approach a paper or magazine of course they will be interested in you until they see your piece.

It is not that your college application or resume or profile or essay is bad, it is that before they get that set of files from you, there is no loss, no cost, no risk, to them saying "show me more."

Every single magazine, paper, etc will respond favorably if you simply say, "Hey I have something you might like!"

"Sure! Send it along." (No cost. They don't even have to read it.)

I suspect you need to submit closer to 200 to get something accepted. This seems to be the ballpark for almost any success (job, match, book).


Without seeing your articles, we can only guess. My guess is that you don't bring anything new and exciting to the table. I am an atheist and will be one as long as I can think rationally (and when that stops, I don't think that person is "me" anymore, since my rationality is central to my persona).

But when I read atheists, I hear the same old arguments, and editors don't want to publish recycled opinions everybody has already heard, especially when about 85% of their audience (in the USA) won't read the article at all!

Contrary to George Costanza on Seinfeld, people will not watch a show "because its on TV", and they won't read an article just because it is in a magazine.

Your pitch may make the editor think he likes the topic if you can bring him something fresh, and then gets your article and its blandly argued, generic, and nothing special. So you lose to something special, and very special, because most editors will have a backlog of good "evergreen" articles they could choose to publish (evergreen writing is not tied to current events or anticipating new events).

I would read the magazines you cannot get into, and look for non-staff writers, and see what they did. Try to find some that don't seem to have particular credentials (usually they will list credentials in a sidebar, otherwise google the name).

My comment above reads:

You become qualified to write about atheism with credentials (e.g. a doctorate in philosophy, published academic articles), or by being becoming famous by some other route (Ron Reagan, famous as Ronald Reagan's son, is also an unabashed atheist).
Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins are all famous academics in other scientific fields. Sam Harris is a PhD in cognitive neuro-science.
People (and editors) trust Name recognition (Ron Reagan, celebrities of screen, sports, music) and indisputable credentials (PhDs with real scientific publications). Combined with laymen-readable writing.

Find somebody without any of those credentials, and chances are they have done something clever, or their writing shines particularly well. The editor chose them for some reason, so don't dismiss them by saying your writing is just as good, it isn't! Face reality and try to learn something from them. Steal their style. Match their word count. Make as many rhetorical points as they do.

If you can't find any author of any article that isn't an employee and isn't famous for some reason or well credentialed, then that is likely the magazine isn't interested in you. Most are intended to be profit machines, not public servants, and there is no profit in devoting a page to something that isn't going to be read. Depending upon their print run, they get thousands of $ for a full page ad there instead, or they can pick some fun evergreen article instead.

You need to do something new and interesting. Presuming you are a decent writer, failure to do that is the #1 reason for rejection.

  • You seem to constantly misunderstand my point, which is fine, I don't mind repeating myself. I'll try to spell it out, okay? Just read line for line, and don't do too much thinking. If one cannot get his foot in the door to offer a fully written essay to an editor, one cannot be considered exceptional, and thus cannot write for the paper. Yes? Okay. So, most editors do not, as you can read anywhere, read pitches which contain an entire essay as it is too much effort for their limited time. Thus, my issue isn't writing exceptional pieces, but getting the editor to read them. Read this twice. – user31078 Mar 10 '18 at 0:40
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    @user31078 And you seem to stubbornly misunderstand me, too. You HAVE your foot in the door, the response to your query was an INVITATION to send something, and I think when you DID they did not care for it. You want to blame everybody but yourself and your writing. I fully understand your point, I just consider it invalid: Your query worked fine, but your essay failed to deliver what they wanted. You think the editor must not have READ it, and you ignore the fact s/he probably DID read it, and just didn't LIKE it, and didn't bother to tell you because they just don't do that. – Amadeus Mar 10 '18 at 4:29

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