“Unsolicited articles not accepted” (Mistake #54)

It’s a mistake to think this means “we don’t use freelance contributions”.

It means “we don’t read articles you send us that we’ve not asked you to send us”.

If they really want to try to put you off, they’ll say something like “Unsolicited articles are not read and cannot be returned” and perhaps add “no liability for materials submitted can be assumed”.

These are basically light deterrants to put less dogged or experienced writers off. Don’t be defeatist. 99% of publications accept freelance work.

How to overcome the obvious hurdle, then? Logically, if unsolicited articles are not accepted, one can confidently assume that solicited ones are.

Your task, then, is to get them to solicit an article.

How do you get them to do that? You propose one. You send them an outline – often called a pitch. 100 or 150 focused, compelling and confident words, outlining your idea and designed to be totally irresistable to an editor starved of scintillating material for his or her publication.

They may say, “No thanks”. That’s fine: re-angle and/or rework it and take it elsewhere.

They may ask you to submit the piece on a speculative basis. That’s a solicited article, so write it and send it off.

They may commission the piece. That’s most definitely a solicited article. Congratulations, you’ve just made a sale.

Found this Mistake useful? You might also like my ebook 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make (Kindle edition), priced £1.99 / $2.99.

Comments 9

  • Great advice as ever. However, following on from your last post, it is still frustrating when you send a pitch and get no response whatsoever.

    In a similar vein, a recent rejection stated the article was rejected as they were "not accepting filler items at present." A hint as to how this could be checked would save everyone time and effort.


  • Thanks Ann. In an ideal world I guess there'd be a writers' section on the publication's website, specifying what was and what was not being sought…

    Alternatively, I guess this is something writers could do themselves. If you hear of news such as this, maybe spread the word via Twitter and FB, to let others know? Sharing titbits of information like this can potentially save lots of time and effort, I guess, if we all did it. Good or bad idea?


  • I think seeing the words, 'no unsolicited articles' puts a lot of writers off as they see it as a waste of time to try. But I'm of the opinion that you should never say never and just give it your best shot anyway. If you've done your market research properly and have delivered a great and appropriate pitch that showcases your excellent article that the editor has been waiting for and cannot refuse, then job done!

    Julie xx

  • I'm of the opinion that a good editor will never turn away the perfect idea for an article for their readership, irrespective of what their freelance-contributed-policy is. It's our job to give them those fantastic articles!

  • Very encouraging and clear. Thanks a lot.

  • Good post – it is important to understand that 'no unsolicited articles' does NOT mean 'no articles by freelance writers'.

    I'm also all for sharing tidbits of knowledge about what magazines are looking for.

  • Thanks all for extra comments.

    And you do that really well on your blog, womag – but I think it would be tough to do it comprehensively with non-fiction markets as there are just so many.

    Thinking about it, it's a shame more magazines don't get in touch with writing magazines to tell them of their changing needs – although, of course, by the time they go to print, that may have changed…

  • Mistake 54b: misspelling "deterrents".

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