Got This Great Article Idea, But Editors Aren’t Buying?

By William Ballard (Author of, “The True Writer’s Life: Discovering the Author and Finisher of Our Faith“)

You have a life changing article idea — but editors aren’t biting. Is this something that you can relate to?


Believe me when I tell you, you are not alone! I have experienced this time and time again, and I see the same problems over and over again in other writers as well. I have compiled some of the more common reasons as to why editors are not buying your ideas, this way you can by pass the learning curve and start pitching article ideas that really sell.

Reason #1 – Your Idea is Not Really an Idea at All

Ten tips for overcoming negative thoughts?  That’s a topic, not an article idea. Tips on how to overcome negative thoughts in 10 minutes a day, or from people with difficult life circumstances, or using calm-enhancing resources that you have at home or practices that you can do from home — those are ideas.

Want to know whether you have a topic or an idea, ask yourself these question, “Could there be a book about this? Are there already books about this?”

For example, bookstore shelves are completely overcrowded with books on how to overcome negative thoughts. In fact, there is a whole genre dedicated to them called, “Self Help”.

When you have such a broad topic you are going to need nearly 200 pages just to do the topic any justice. As a freelance article writer, your job is to focus on and expand upon a small slice of that topic.

Reason #2 – Your Idea Will Only Speak to a Small Crowd

You see, this is the opposite of the problem we just discussed. For example, if you pitch an article idea to a national magazine highlighting three Iowa entrepreneurs making it big and doing great things in their communities — well, the editor of that magazine more than likely will not bite because he or she will know that only people in Iowa are more likely to be interested in this kind of article.

Reason #3 – Your Idea Doesn’t Speak the Language of the Magazine’s Readers

Many writers I work with usually want to write for big name magazines and other publications, and I admire their fortitude. Many of them have what I like to call – abdominal courage (guts). However, they often want to write about subjects that they have experienced or encountered, but don’t necessarily speak the language of the magazine’s readers. Yes, it is true, writers are supposed to write what they know, but if what you know is something that a reader is not interested in learning, then all you have done is wasted your time. What you have to say is not nearly as important as to what the reader wants to hear. In short, it is not about you, it is about the reader, and what they find interesting and valuable.

When I pitched an article idea on business principles taught by Marines to Entrepreneur, I made sure that it was being presented during Memorial Day, which gave me an interesting hook or angle. The idea sold, because many of Entrepreneur’s readers — who are business professionals and former military personnel — could relate. And even if some of their readers have never served in the military, they know that military personnel live by certain principles that business professionals can admire.

Whatever subject or issue that you’d like to write about, tell the editor in your pitch how common it is among their magazine’s readers. And if it’s not common at all — you need to rethink your article idea. One way to do this is to offer your idea in four or five different ways that will relate to the magazine’s readers. Surely one of your four or five ways will resonate.

Reason #4 – There’s Just Not Enough Meat to Go With the Vegies

Often, freelance article writers pitch a feature that doesn’t have enough meat to warrant 1,000+ words. Instead, it’s more of an FOB (Front of the Book) piece — these are typically under 300 or so words.

If you want to pitch an FOB piece, great — this is a good way to break into the article writing industry. But you definitely don’t want to base your writing business around these short pieces. Continue to follow and read my column here at Working Writers and I will share with you how to start providing the “meat” that editors are really looking for.

Reason #5 – Your Idea is Really Just a Rant and Holds No True Value

Sometimes we freelance article writers try to pass off a personal rant as an article idea. Maybe you hate it when people don’t hold the door for you, or leave books on the table at the bookstore. Then you may think — why not sell it as an article or essay on how impolite people are?

Believe it or not, I do tend to encourage freelance writers to be a bit controversial at times because these controversial pieces can create a viral discussion. However, a rant that contains no reader value will hardly ever sell. People don’t want to be lectured to…they want information that will help them change their lives for the better.

So sure, I would encourage you to be inspired by what pisses you off, but just don’t try to turn that angry rant wholesale into an article.

Now Over to You…

What do you think? What are some other reasons a freelance article writer’s ideas may not be selling? Share your thoughts to the Comments below!

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About the Author

William Ballard
William Ballard, a freelance writer, blogger, and author, is chief executive of Freelance Writer and Author William Ballard (currently located in Grand Prairie, Texas). He blogs about freelance writing, blogging, and business at his Freelance Writing and Business Blog.

1 Comment on "Got This Great Article Idea, But Editors Aren’t Buying?"

  1. I look forward to reading everyone’s thoughts down here in the comments. Let me know how this article has helped you or if you have any other tips or ideas that you would like to share please do so.

    And if you have a question or article idea that you would like me to touch on, please don’t hesitate to share those as well.


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