When is it appropriate to ask an editor why she rejected an article?

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GiddyUpGo

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I sent a query to an online publication and was excited when the editor replied right away asking for a completed piece. I emailed her a couple of times with questions, and then sent her the article about a week later. I then received a generic rejection letter and I have no idea what went wrong.Is it appropriate to email the editor just to ask for a couple of brief suggestions of what I could have done differently? If she'd just sent the standard rejection to begin with I would have just moved on, but I feel like since I was actaually asked to write the piece that I at least deserve a short explanation for the rejection.
 

Fruitbat

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Nah, I wouldn't. If an editor asks for the whole piece, I just send it (without asking any questions first) and if they reject it without comment at any stage, that's the end of it- until the next time I have something I think they might want.

I don't think they believe we "deserve" anything, any more than you'd owe an explanation to a door-to-door salesperson after you expressed enough interest to ask a question or something about what they were selling.

If the editor wanted to discuss it further with you, they would have. Most likely, we'd just soon think the salesperson was a pest and avoid them in the future. Which is not how we want any editors to think of us, so...

I ran a little e-zine for a while and it didn't take much for someone to seem like they were likely to be too demanding to bother with, especially when there are so very many others who got the way it went and accepted it, and of course, time is always limited. I really didn't even like people to send emails thanking me for reading their submission. It was just taking up another moment of my time for no real reason on my end.

So, that's my opinion. Anyway, congrats on the nibble and better luck next time!
 
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Anna Iguana

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+1 to everything Carly said (though I never ran a 'zine).
 

cornflake

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Wait -- was this actually commissioned? Someone told you to write it? I'm confused by the wording in the OP, sorry. If you just queried something written, they requested it and you sent it and got a 'no thanks,' then I agree with the no contact.

If you sent a query, the editor requested you take on an assignment, gave you specific parameters, hopefully a contract, etc., and then just rejected it, that requires an explanation, imo, or a kill fee, heh.
 

Rhymes with Clue

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If it's a spec piece, then don't expect anything about why it didn't work. Think of it this way, you are going into a store to buy a certain kind of slacks, of a certain color, to fill a hole in your wardrobe. Think how annoying it is to have to explain to the salespeople why you are rejecting all the pants that don't fit what you need, and think of all the ways they could possibly not meet those needs (wrong color, wrong style, wrong size, don't like the pockets...) Editors don't have time for that. It's probably nothing you did and nothing you could fix. Just not what that editor needed.

On the other hand, if it's a piece for a nonpaying market, and the editor asked you to write it, as someone said above, it would be polite of them to give you a hint of why they didn't want it. Although quite frankly, as someone who edits a publication that doesn't pay, if I didn't use something and somebody wrote to ask me why, I would think they wanted to argue about it, and I just don't have the time. (I would probably give them a hint, if it was something I thought they could fix, but I would do that when I rejected it.) In fact I've never done this although I have done some pretty heavy editing--no one has complained about that.
 

BrianY

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I too would say "never." If nothing else, it's really bad form.
 

Enoise

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Truth is the editor also requested for complete pieces from many writers. It's something very impersonal, on their part, at least. So you asking 'why' might make it personal with a negative angle. And you wouldn't want that fire next time sake.
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away