3 Free Ways to Find Out What Editors Really Think

Carol Tice

Editor thinkingIt’s one of the biggest problems in freelance writing.

You send out a query to an editor, or a letter of introduction to a business.

And then…nothing.

You never hear back. You’re left to wonder what you’re doing wrong.

Or you submit an article, and it gets killed. They give you some vague reason, such as, “Just not a fit for us at this time.”

How can you ever improve?

You’re stuck. But you need to break through and get answers, or you’re not going to get the kind of great-paying gigs you want.

Fortunately, there are several paths out of this dilemma. One is to hire an expensive writing coach and pay thousands for their input.

But there are free ways, too. Here are three:


1. Ask

Be bold, and email that editor again and ask for feedback on why they didn’t like your idea. You might not get an answer, but then again, you might get a quick, useful tip or two to improve your queries.

You can also ask any writer friends you might have, or editors with whom you do have relationships, to go over the queries you’re sending out to other editors. How could they be strengthened?

2. Compare

If you’re being edited and published anywhere, you have a powerful improvement tool right at your fingertips.

Simply take the article draft you turned in, and compare it, word by word, with the published version. What did they change?

Note how what they did made the piece stronger or more concise. This is like a free writing course!

For more value, if you have questions about things they changed, ask the editor why the change was made. This is how I learned much of what I know about article writing, line-by-line comparisons and asking questions.

Seeing how the editor tweaked the story may also help you develop stronger angles for your future pitches. It’ll give you a sense of what sorts of details, research facts, and quotes this editor likes.

3. Be a case study

Experts are always looking for students who shine, to use as case studies to help promote their coaching. Sometimes, they’ll cut you a free tuition deal if you’re willing to sit for a case study interview and share the story of how their insights helped your career.

I’ve had the pleasure of being a case study for a couple of my mentors, and it was super-fun! It’s great exposure for you, too, as they usually mention your company name. I’ve also gotten free access to courses, online tools, and mentoring groups for taking the time to do that.







  1. Timothy Torrents:

    Great ideas, I always thought that if a editor does not respond it’s because he or she really does not like the idea. But I noticed that, if you follow up later, there’s a good chance they’ll need a writer. I contacted one editor again, after he didn’t reply for a month or two, and he said he was interested. Thanks for this article!

  2. Rohi Shetty

    Hi Carol,

    This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the Godfather: “I’ll make him an offer he cannot refuse.”

    Thanks for this incredibly generous offer.

    I am in. Yo.

    • Rohi Shetty

      What I like best about your offer – it’s a great way to persuade us to actually do the assignments.


      • Carol Tice

        We’re really excited about this structure for Pitch Clinic for that very reason, Rohi. If we can get people sending out MANY pitches in the month after class, this will really *take* and people will get results — which is what we want, and why we do it.

    • Carol Tice

      Awesome — see you in Pitch Clinic!

  3. Cherese Cobb

    These are great tips. I’ve studied the published version and draft side-by-side, but I’ve never gotten the nerve to ask why the editor changed it in the first place.

    Linda and your case study offer is very generous. I can’t afford to attend pitch clinic yet, but I’m interested to hear how it goes!

    I have one question. I keep trying to land interviews–I’ve been emailing authors (I’ve found on Amazon using publication date–a tip I learned in one of your seminars), but they never respond. I usually tell them how many reader the blog I’m writing for has and what they’ll get out of interview. I give them a week or two respond. Will any of the tips above work for this?

    • Carol Tice

      You know…that’s the kind of problem we fix in Pitch Clinic! If you’re in the Den, we do have a review thread there where you can get a few quick tips, too. We can’t tell what the problem is without getting into a critique.

      • Susan Johnston

        I have that problem too, not just with authors but with sources in general because experts get so many requests like this every day and some people just don’t have time to manage email. I would emphasize not only what they’ll get out of it, but how you’ll make it easy for them. Will you keep the interview to 15 minutes? Can you accept answers over email? Are you prepared to interview them at whatever day/time is convenient for them? Include these details while still trying to keep your ask as brief as possible.

        Another approach would to be follow them on social media and see if you can build up a rapport that way (in a polite, non-creepy way). It’s harder to say no to someone who’s clearly done her homework and is a genuine fan vs. someone who seems like they’re sending out the same generic email to every Tom, Dick or Harry Author and hasn’t read their book.

        • Carol Tice

          Good ideas there, Susan!

        • Cherese Cobb

          Thank you so much! These are marvelous tips. I try including how I’ll make it easy for them (phone, email, google hangout,etc.) and following them on social media.

  4. Susan Johnston

    Carol, could you give us an example of how you’d phrase a request for feedback? I’d only make that request with an editor I’ve worked with in the past and when I felt like like the idea was a slam dunk, but I still feel a little uncomfortable asking.

    • Carol Tice

      “I was hoping you might be willing to take a moment to give me a little feedback on why this idea was rejected. I feel my experience makes me a great fit for your publication, and I’d like to not waste your time and make future pitches more to your liking.”

      They may answer, may not, but it’s worth asking.

  5. Rob S

    I have editors in Australia, London and Singapore. Singapore has been the hardest to get used to because they want more formal copy. From my point of view, they didn’t improve my work when they edited the first few. They just made it boring. It is what they want, though, so I’ve learned to avoid writing “you” and not worry about using the passive voice because they like it. The point is that different editors take different angles. Our job is to give them what they want.

  6. Elke

    On the subject of regional variances…

    The cultural differences between nations can be so fascinating. I interview and write up articles about companies all over the world. And I have discovered, for instance, that Asian and Middle-Eastern interviewees generally want to give a very long account of how their operations commenced, including which family members exactly were involved.

    But in the final write-up, this aspect must be significantly shortened to make way for everything else that others in reading an international publication would expect to read.

    This, and other experiences, does makes me wonder if eventually, as the voices of more nations are heard, whether my mode of writing up the final copy will accordingly change.

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t know, Elke — I have the exact same experience with U.S. business owners!

  7. Elke

    Too true. Americans do talk a lot and about every aspect pertaining to their business – not just the historic one 😉

    Scandinavians also hold history when it comes ot their businesses in very high regard, in my experience.

  8. Elke

    I guess what I really trying to say is that there indeed cultural differences. And I don’t have a problem with that. I love it – it makes my work so very interesting. But I can’t help but wonder that since I am compelled to edit interviewees’ responses in line with the my editors’s reqs in the UK – in other words, the more dominant cultural expectations. I also wonder whether one day those other cultures that are less dominant in relation to articles written in the English language today, may become more dominant later. Particularly India – currently flagged by the International Monetary Fund as being expected to become the world’s fastest-growing major economy by 2016 ahead of China. And Indonesia – another bubbling economy to keep an eye on.

    By writing for an international B2B, I am essentially translating the thoughts and ideas of those who don’t speak English for an international readership. And my guess is that one day, people like me will eventually need to pay more consideration to the cultural expectations of India (plus Indonesia, China).

    (This is a personal passion of mine, and if anyone out there also has been getting a fascinating overview of various cultural differences in their own work (esp. Africa), I’d love to hear their thoughts…)


  1. Carnival of Creativity 7/19/15 - […] Tice presents 3 Free Ways to Find Out What Editors Really Think posted at Make a Living […]

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