Notes From a Hired Pen

Reader Question: “Is silence the new no?”

Mailbag time! Here’s my first reader question (well, two part question) of the blog challenge:

“Is silence the new no? Should I check back in with editors I’ve pitched or just let it go?”

To answer the first question: No, silence is not the new no. I’ve been freelancing since 2002. Some of my queries went unanswered then, and some of them go unanswered now. This happens for a lot of reasons: an editor doesn’t have time to send a rejection (and to be fair, I don’t answer every PR pitch I’m sent), or they’ve filed it away for another time. I’ve had editors respond to a query over a year later. Here’s one story pitch that was answered after a long gap in time even though it wasn’t a cold email pitch.

To answer the second question: Yes, you should ABSOLUTELY follow up! I usually follow up two weeks after I send a pitch unless it’s an extremely timely story (then, I’ll follow up a few days later and say I’m moving on if I don’t hear by X). I’ve lost count of how many times a pitch was either kicked to a spam folder or misplaced and that, after following up, those pitches became assignments. A few times I’ve even realized that I forgot to hit send on the pitch (I solved this by keeping far few emails in my “drafts” folder).

So yes follow up! If an editor doesn’t get back to you, do the same thing you’d do if an editor said no: reformat and pitch to someone else.

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2 Responses to “Reader Question: “Is silence the new no?””

  1. Christine says:

    Jen – I know you have covered working with PR people in the past, but I haven’t seen you yet address just how much work you want PR people to do when pitching you stories? Is it ever helpful to have the PR person pitch a fully formed narrative that is, of course, relevant to what you write about? I avoid sending press releases to freelancers, and usually only engage when I have a story idea that I think they would like to write. That being said, I don’t want to overstep my boundaries.

    • says:

      Christine – Your gut instinct with freelancers – at least for me – is right. I very rarely see a PR pitch that I then turn into a story. 99.99% of the time, I make first contact with a PR person when I already have an assignment (and even then, I try to avoid them because – no offense! – there are a lot of really terrible PR people).

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