When rejection letters come, and they will, you’ll need to figure out why your piece was rejected. Sometimes an editor will tell you point blank. Other times you’ll wait for months and never receive a reply.
Either way, it’s important to evaluate the reasons for a rejected query. If an editor has filled you in on the reasons, then you’re well on your way. If not, you’ll need to review the magazine and its guidelines as you ask some of the following questions:
Do you have the experience necessary?
Perhaps you’re overreaching into a topic or a field in which you need more experience or research before you can submit an effective query.
Have you learned the craft of writing? Are you well-read?
Some writers will need to spend more time reading up on the basic techniques of nonfiction writing, style, and grammar. I took a workshop with the former editor of Vermont Life Magazine and he just about blew my mind with his various diagrams for structuring a magazine story. Books such as On Writing Well and The Elements of Style are bestsellers for a reason!
Do you know your competition?
Did you query an editor regarding an article or book on a topic that has already been addressed by many other writers? Have you failed to address a fresh angle or to offer a unique perspective?
Do you know your audience?
Even if you have a great idea, sufficient experience, and a unique perspective, you may still fall short of writing directly to the magazine or publisher’s audience. I have run into this on many occasions in the field of religion when I took angles that were a bit too liberal, charismatic, or conservative depending on the editor’s taste. In addition, some magazines are more academic or scholarly, while others aim for general readership.
Do you know your potential publishers or agents?
Many magazine editors, publishers, and literary agents who receive queries from writers state their preferences on their web sites, list previous publications, and sometimes even share a theme or genre list. Did you miss any of that crucial information before sending in your query?
Even if you’ve been rejected or ignored, keep working on your queries, articles, and book ideas. It’s a tough business, but you never know when the right situation will fall into your lap. Unless you’re trying, that will never happen to you.