The most common reason that writing submissions are rejected by websites is NOT poor writing, bad editing, or grammar. The most frequent reason I hear from editors is that the piece is not a good fit for their site.
It’s important to make sure your submission fits with the subject matter, tone, and style of a website before submitting. Not only will it give you a much better chance of having your work accepted, but it will also save you and the editor wasted time. Perhaps most importantly, you don’t want to irritate an editor by repeatedly submitting work that clearly doesn’t fit with the type of content they publish. You’ll become the writer who cried “submit!” and they may not look favorably on future submissions from you — good fit or not. Believe me, you do not want to send a post to an editor that says “I’m not sure if this is right for your site or not, but…”.
Submitting work that is a good fit shows an editor that you have done your homework and know exactly what their site is all about. It also shows that you value your time and theirs, and don’t want to waste it.
Here are some quick tricks to ensure that your submission is the type of content that makes sense for a specific site.
1. MARINATE IN IT – This is the very best way to get a feel for what a site publishes, and by marinate, I mean read it regularly and subscribe. Think of the sites you enjoy most and visit daily. You probably know exactly whether a specific piece would work on that site because you know their vibe.
2. HANG OUT WITH THE COOL KIDS – I’m talking about studying the most popular posts. Many sites have a top posts section or a sidebar widget showing most popular posts. Check these out. Even just scanning can give you a feel for the subjects and tone that do well with readers. While you don’t want to submit something too similar, you can definitely learn some things about what seems to drive great traffic and reader engagement on the site.
3. SEARCH – Use the site’s search feature to search for your topic (or things related to your topic), to see if they have ever published anything remotely related. If you come up empty, it may be a good indicator that this is not subject matter they are interested in. At the same time, recent coverage of topics too similar may mean they are not in the market for more at this time. Not finding your topic in search doesn’t necessarily mean that they wouldn’t be interested. Try searching for a broader topic. For instance, if you wrote something about your experience with IVF, and you don’t find anything else on that topic on your target site, try searching for “infertility”, or “pregnancy” and see if any of the articles have a similar tone to what you have written.
4. CAN I GET A MENU PLEASE – Most online magazines and aggregate sites have some sort of topical menu structure. Pretend you are the editor receiving your piece. Is there a place where it logically fits? If not, it may not be a great fit, so do a bit more digging.
5. ABOUT FACE! – This one would probably be my first step with any site – read the about page! Most sites have very clear info on their about page that describes them. If you are not digging their about page (and there are some vague and confusing ones out there believe it or not), my trick is to visit their Facebook page and click the About tab for their short and long descriptions. I find that a lot of sites will be much more concise and direct here than they are on their own about page.
6. ANATOMY OF A POST – This goes along with #1, but digs deeper. When you are reading posts – especially popular and recent ones, see if there are commonalities among posts. Are the titles always funny? Do they seem to publish mainly list posts? Avoid list posts? What about word length? Do they seem to have a lot of snark? Are the posts typically serious? Do they publish a lot of essays? Informational posts? Personal stories? etc. Your submission shouldn’t follow a formula necessarily, but if it looks glaringly different from the other work on the site, that could be a red flag.
7. RUB ELBOWS – It never hurts to network with writers and bloggers who have already been published on the site. I’m biased, but a great place to do that is my Facebook group, Beyond Your Bloggers. You can see who in the group has been published where by checking the daily thread where we posts work we have featured on sites other than our own personal blogs. If you have a piece and are not sure if it’s a fit for a specific website, or want suggestions on sites where it may be a fit, you can always start a new thread and get feedback from group members as well. If you’d like Beyond Your Blog to make recommendations and/or consult on your submission strategy, check out our service offerings here.
8. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS – Writer’s or submission guidelines published on a site can answer a lot of questions you may have around the content they are looking for. Be sure to read them through (twice in some cases) before submitting to see if any of the info conflicts with the piece you want to submit.
9. ASK – You can always ask an editor. While you don’t want to be a pest, if you’ve done everything else on this list and are still not sure if something would be a good fit, I’d say go ahead and submit it and see. If you have a pitch, but have not written anything yet, I’d reach out and let them know you are a fan of the site and have an idea for a post but are not sure if it would be a topic they would be interested in and feel it out that way. They may want you to modify it slightly or just give you a yes or no. With editor bandwidth typically being tight, turnaround time could vary, or in some cases you may never hear back, but it’s worth a try.