I got an essay accepted in July, but they still haven't published it.
January 30, 2014 2:33 PM   Subscribe

I wrote a personal essay for a high-traffic website and it was accepted. But after seven months they still haven't published it. Do you think there's any chance they will? Should I email and ask about it a second time?

A question for the writers:

I recently started trying to publish essays/reviews/fiction. It's been an uphill struggle but I've managed to get a few pieces published.

In July, I sent an essay to a high-traffic website that publishes mostly personal essays. My article was accepted. It still hasn't been published. The contract stipulates that they don't have to publish my work, but it doesn't say whether they'll contact me if they decide not to. It does say they'll pay me upon publication, so of course that hasn't happened yet either.

The first time I asked when they were going to publish my piece, they said they were only running essays with similar topics a few times a week, and they had a lot to run. That was in October. Should I write to them again and ask if they're planning to publish it at all? Do you think there's any chance they will?

Note: I had another piece published in print, and the editors revised the whole thing. It doesn't look like my article at all now. Is being a writer this bad all the time?
posted by tuberose to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
High-traffic websites get thousands of freelance submissions every month. They often lose track of your stuff. It's been 4 months since your last contact, of course you need to check if they're still interested. Just be polite, and brief: "Hi there, I'm wondering if you were still interested in this essay of mine, which you accepted back in July? Let me know – thanks!"

No, it's not always this bad. Sometimes it's worse, and you don't get accepted at all. (Seriously, keep trying, and try not to see an individual rejection as an indicator of your worth as a writer.)
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:45 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

As a longtime former magazine writer, I don't have a good answer to the first part of your question, but wanted to answer the more philosophical second part.

On one hand, I learned a lot about writing from having my work demolished, tested and rebuilt by editors who knew all these tricks and devices to punch up copy. On the other hand, one of the worst parts about devoting my life to a high-traffic website was that I almost never sounded like myself after editors were through.

So while I think there is a lot of value to going through the fire of having editors eviscerate article after article, I also think it can have its limits as far as creative expression and standing out as yourself rather than as just another small voice singing in the master's chorus, when they're choosing the song. While I'm grateful for the experience I got spending years pitching and writing for the high traffic website _____, I think you also gotta hold on to your vision, DIY when you can and never let editors be the final judges of what people want to read.
posted by steinsaltz at 3:08 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]

I suggest you internalize this simple mantra:


Short for "doesn't matter; got paid."

Web site accepted your essay several months ago but hasn't run it yet? Doesn't matter, you got paid. Magazine accepted your piece but edited it so much you don't even recognize it? Doesn't matter, you got paid.

(Needless to say, if you are submitting to non-paying markets, or markets that pay upon publication rather than upon acceptance, stop doing that.)
posted by kindall at 3:36 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Two thoughts.

1: In the spectrum of pestery impatient follower-uppers, you lie somewhere between Mother Teresa and Saint Francis of Assisi. Go ahead.

2: In any freelance realm, more contact is mo' better. Be polite, be amusing, make the conversation (however terse) enjoyable for the person at the other end. But staying away will get you nowhere. Nobody ever hired someone because they do a swell job of staying out of contact.
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:37 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]

Great advice above. This happens! Make contact.

Also... they should be showing you an edit in advance of publication. Which meets your approval. And has your input. A pre-publication proof would be good in addition, after the edit process.

Um being a writer is OFTEN that bad, actually! In my experience, the bigger the venue, the worse the editing experience. Like I'll take The Morning News over Details annnnny day of the week, though the pay rate differs literally by a factor of 100. Those are the considerations you have to make: what can you afford to accept, what venue suits you, what editors suit you, what experience suits you.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:11 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

(Needless to say, if you are submitting to non-paying markets, or markets that pay upon publication rather than upon acceptance, stop doing that.)

This is that situation.
posted by jayder at 4:37 PM on January 30

TOTALLY contact them again. That is totally standard operating procedure. You're probably way back in the queue, but you're allowed to ask when your piece will be running. I mostly am a writer, but I do some editing of a feature that needs scheduling and there are times when it's scheduled out for literally months. (I tell the writer when it's running, but if I forgot, and they emailed to ask, I would be MORE THAN HAPPY to tell them.) Even with well organized publications I've written for often and with an editor I have a great relationship with, sometimes I have to pop in and see what's happening with my piece. NBD.

Editors SHOULD go over your revisions with you but it doesn't always happen. It's annoying, especially with print, given that you can't go back in and fix things if they do something you wouldn't have signed off on.

Welcome to being a writer.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:38 PM on January 30

Also... they should be showing you an edit in advance of publication. Which meets your approval. And has your input. A pre-publication proof would be good in addition, after the edit process.

This depends on the market, its publication workflow, and the writer's ability to negotiate that kind of approval into the contract. I'm an editor for a medium traffic website and of the three dozen or so freelancers we regularly work with, only two have wrangled the right to approve edits. I can't think of a time either has refused an edit, but they get a looksee nonetheless.

Now, as a courtesy, I will sometimes push a piece back to a writer and note any significant edits and open the process to discussion. More often I'll push it back with comments and ask the writer to make the changes or follow up on queries.

OP: Contact your editor again. There are three dozen or more of you and one or three of them. Add in staff changes, new editorial directions, articles pushed ahead because of business-side deals, last minute guest post trades, whatever, and stuff gets lost in the shuffle.
posted by notyou at 7:50 PM on January 30

Also, OP. Editors are always keeping an eye out for good pitches.

They already know your work -- and like it enough to publish it (sometime eventually) -- maybe bring them some ideas in a topic area they run more frequently?
posted by notyou at 7:55 PM on January 30

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