It’s a funny old world – the writer’s life. We freelancers are technically used to the rolling road of pitching and yet I still mess up.
So today I am writing about “Housekeeping” which is so crucial when you are submitting lots of material to different places. I keep a log both online on a neat and efficient spreadsheet and also by hand in a battered old blue notebook. No idea why I do both. I guess I just can’t let go of that familiar blue friend.
Anyway. The point here is that it is always a good idea to have a little rummage through the records and being a New Year I did just that this week and discovered there had been no outcome on a story I submitted to a magazine some six months back. This is quite unusual for me as I am lucky to have a good relationship with my commissioning editors and normally know where I am going with a story- sales-wise - quite quickly. Often within a fortnight. But this was a magazine to which I haven’t contributed for a while….so fair enough. I didn’t expect special treatment.
I decided, somewhat reluctantly, to chase the submission first by email and then by telephone. I hate calling editors, truth be told, as I know how crazy busy they are and this is very much a last resort for me. But I was very fond of this story (inspired by a trip to The Royal Pavilion in Brighton) and wanted to see it in print. So I needed to confirm acceptance/rejection before offering elsewhere.
Result! The lovely commissioning editor was very apologetic about the delay and within half an hour I received an email, confirming a sale, an increased fee and this note “This is the most beautiful story I have read in a while…thanks so much for giving me a nudge as I would hate to have missed this one.”
Yeah, I know. Sounds a bit boastful to share this here but I hope you will understand my motive. The truth is I was feeling a bit sad about that story and questioning my judgement. I had a good gut feeling it should sell and was thinking “why didn’t they like it?” Just a little bit of me didn’t want to chase, I think, as I didn’t want a rejection. So now I am reminding myself to stay confident. That it’s always important to chase stray submissions which may get lost in busy systems. I should have followed up on this story much sooner. My error.
The rule, of course, is to be patient initially – and to remember that response times often depend on your relationship with the magazine. But if you have not had a yes or no within a few months, don’t forget a gentle nudge.
Those submission logs are crucial – so go and check yours right now. Is there a stray submission that needs polite follow up? Take a leaf. It’s always worth it for another cheque in the post!
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.