More times than not, when an editor looks at an article proposal, she will see something worthwhile in it. What dictates her acceptance is often what the publication has recently included and what they already have slated for the future.
An editor may very well like your query, but she included a similar article in the last issue. Or she has already agreed to include something similar in a future issue.
If that is the case, oftentimes you will receive an outright rejection of your proposal. However, sometimes editors will see promise in your idea—even though they did something similar previously—but will want you to tweak it a bit.
As a writer, be open to these suggestions, especially if you’re a relatively writer with few clips. Each published article helps you build your portfolio and opens the door to future opportunities. Make sure you do not become so tied to your particular idea that you can’t make changes or additions to it.
For example, say you send an article proposal on the demise of big box bookstores. An editor gets back to you and says he likes the idea but also wants you to look into small, independent bookstores that are succeeding—thus combining your idea with something the publication thinks would be of interest to its readers.
Unless the suggested changes violate a moral or ethical issue—or require too many extra hours of work without requisite compensation—it’s usually a good idea to accommodate the publication.
First, by agreeing to the changes in the article, you are getting a chance to write for publication, which includes a clip and payment.
Second, you are making yourself known to the editor—and the publication—that you are someone who is open to working with them. This willingness on your part may lead to future opportunities down the road.
Finally, as a writer, you are learning more about the process and how to make it work better for you in the future.
In addition, it’s always good—for the same reasons just listed—to work with a publication on deadlines. Usually a magazine will want to move up a deadline from what a writer usually proposes—if the publication is interested in the article. Many publications work many months ahead. Be willing to accommodate them on deadline changes.
Word count is also another area where negotiation can ensue. Your proposal might suggest a 1,000-word article, and the magazine only wants 600 words. Again, it’s always a good idea to work with the publication on these sorts of things.
Publications will often have word count limits for certain sections of the magazine. They might have other pieces already lined up for the section in which your article will appear. Maybe they normally include 3,000 words an issue in this section and 2,400 of them have already been assigned.
It might be difficult to cut or limit your article by 400 words—or 200 or 800 or whatever. However, in the end, it will be worth it to see your name in print and to receive a check a few weeks later for your work.
It’s also a nice challenge—for all writers—to try and be concise.
Also, don’t be stubborn when it comes to trying again. Rejection is part of the writer’s life, and he who understands this and doesn’t become burdened and frustrated by it will no doubt reap the rewards down the road. Don’t be stubborn … be willing to try again … and again.