Can’t Get Published? Freelance Writers, Stop Doing This…

can't get published freelancers writing If you can’t get published, you’re making mistakes. Freelance writers, here are the top reasons I don’t assign articles – and sometimes don’t even return emails from writers.

These tips will help you get your articles (and perhaps books) published…but only if you take a cold, hard look at your own writing.

Before the tips, a quip:



“If you want to be creative in your company, your career, your life, all it takes is one easy step…the extra one. When you encounter a familiar plan, you just ask one question: ‘What ELSE could we do?’” ~ Dale Dauten.

If you think you’re doing everything you can to get published, ask yourself what one little thing you could do to take your writing career a step further. Sometimes getting published means getting back to basics! Read Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer (Second Edition) by Moira Anderson – she’s a professional freelance writer who’s written a few bestselling books on writing.

If You Can’t Get Published…

Last month, I started hiring writers for my Quips and Tips blogs. The following tips include the gist (not the real words) of actual emails, article pitches, articles writers have sent me.

But before I jump into the examples from writers, I have to share one of the most important things I’ve learned as an editor…

Learn how to use transitions in your writing

Writers who can’t get published use bad grammar, improperly capitalized titles, spelling mistakes, and run on sentences. As an editor who gets several article pitches a day, I see it ALL the time. So, it should go without saying that freelancers need to improve their writing skills if they want to earn money writing!

I’m shocked at how many people call themselves writers…and they can’t write.


If you want to stand out as a smart, experienced, professional freelance writer, work on your transitions. Writing articles for Quips and Tips is challenging because I require a quip (quotation) at the beginning of each article. It requires skill, time, and thought to weave that quip into the article and use it to flow into the tips. That’s a transition — and it goes beyond using “so”, “however”, “in contrast” and “on the other hand.”

Learning that skill – transitioning from one thought to another without losing or confusing your readers – will improve your writing skills immensely and help you get published.

Focus on the magazine’s needs, not your craving to get published

Here’s the gist of an email from a freelance writer who wants to write for Quips and Tips: “I think writing for your publication will increase my online presence and help me get published in bigger, better magazines. Plus, I need the money.”

Um, maybe you should try a different approach? Like telling the editor what you like about the magazine and how your article can make it better? Or, how your articles will complement the content, style, and direction of the publication? Don’t tell the editor what getting published means to you, tell her what getting published means to the publication.

If you can’t get published in magazines (or on little blogs like Quips and Tips), you need to change your approach. Read Writing for Magazines – How to Get Published for New Writers – it’s not just for beginners.

Accept the editor’s decision not to publish your article with grace

From a freelancer who doesn’t agree with my decision not to publish the first article idea he pitched: “You think this idea is to general? It’s not any worse than any of the other stuff on your Quips and Tips sites. Those ideas are too general, if you ask me.”

This writer doesn’t obviously doesn’t realize I want to take Quips and Tips in a new, more interesting direction! If he wants to get published, he needs to roll with my decisions. A two-way conversation may be appropriate when we’ve established a working relationship (ie, I’ve published several articles by him) – but even then, it’s wise to tread softly with editors. Sometimes they’re PMSing, and that can affect your future with the publication.

Don’t threaten the editor or tell her how to do her job

From a writer who really really wants to get published: “I spent a lot of time working on these article ideas. In return, I hope you give them the time and thought they deserve.”

My friends, the risk of being a freelance writer and pitching article ideas is that you have to spend time preparing your proposal! That’s the cost of doing business as a freelancer. Even if you don’t get published, you’re still learning and growing as a writer – and you can use that pitch elsewhere. So, don’t tell editors how to do their jobs. Focus on doing yours.

Edit your article without complaining

From a writer who wrote an article with four writing tips, but refused to expand them from one sentence to two or three: “You want me to describe the tips in more detail? Nah. I think they make sense the way they are.”

Remember that the editor wants to publish the best possible articles, so readers keep coming back to the publication. It’s in your best interests to work with editors and learn from them! If your articles are interesting and well-written, then you have a far greater chance of getting more article assignments.

Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published
Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published - Yes, you CAN get published! It's not impossible - but only if you're willing to do the work. Writer's Market 2020 offers thousands of opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards and literary agents — and even new playwriting and screenwriting sections.

For more tips, read How to Pitch a Query Letter to Magazine Editors by Sharon Hurley Hall – a professional freelance writer.

Are you wrestling with the “can’t get published” beast? Have you taken a cold, hard look at why you aren’t getting more assignments?


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