I Can’t Hear You. Silence is Not an Answer.

Telephone rotary dial pictogram. Stock photo by hisks. Image courtesy of stock.xchng®Yesterday’s email began with an essay rejection. And the funny thing is, it made me happy. Why? Because the editor took time to communicate the publication’s decision. Thank you!

Now I’m not picking on publications. Silence in place of a “no” or “no, thank you” is becoming more common each day. Of course, I understand that people are doing the work of three co-workers who were laid off, or are struggling with budget cuts and limited resources. I never assume that someone is using silence to be deliberately rude.

But how hard is it to send even a form email that confirms a company isn’t going to hire you or a magazine isn’t going to publish your writing?

Several months ago, a writer wrote a lengthy blog piece with a title like “reject me, please!” His rant was that he misses the days when writers received rejection letters and emails. Today, he receives silence. The reason I’m not linking to the piece is because, once I read the comments, I realized that he never followed up with any editors. Never. He felt it was beneath him.

That is not my point. Whenever I submit an essay, I always make a note on my calendar to follow up. Why?

  • Because my original email could have landed in spam jail. On more than one occasion, an editor has thanked me for following up, adding that my second email prompted her to check her spam folder—and there I was.
  • Because it shows I’m a professional. It’s usually on my follow-up (either the first or second message after my original submission) that I will hear back. In most of my essay classes, my instructors have insisted that editors look for writers to check in and that it sets you apart from hobbyists.
  • Because it gives me a chance to reiterate I believe an essay is right for that publication, be it online or print.

I also follow up with prospective clients and clients. One of my favorite clients requires an unusually long time to provide feedback. We both know this and work around it. Still, I email one or both contact there every seven to 10 days just to make sure they know I haven’t forgotten them. Some copywriters would say that’s too much to expect of a freelancer. I say it’s worth it in this case. It’s helped develop a strong, lasting relationship.

What about you? Do you follow up on queries or essays? Do you think it’s a writer’s duty to check back with an editor or do you think it’s a drain on the editor? What about clients? Do you follow up on a regular basis or just wait for a response? Please share in the comments below.

(Extra Credit: For you seriously word nerd types, I tend to us AP Style. So let me know if you use it the same way. Follow-up for noun or adjective and follow up for verb.)

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3 thoughts on “I Can’t Hear You. Silence is Not an Answer.

  1. Jenne ~ I didn’t think about agents when writing this, so that’s a very good question. Not sure if my answer will be that satisfactory, though. It depends on the agent. Some will say if you haven’t received an answer by [time], re-send. And some will post on Twitter, “I’ve responded to all queries as of [date]. If you didn’t hear from me, that means I didn’t get your query.” I guess I’d err on the side of following up.

    Shannon ~ Glad you found the post helpful. Thanks for commenting!

  2. This a great idea. What do you think about following up with agents? Most of them say that if you don’t hear from them they aren’t interested with mea culpas/I don’t have time…. and some mags do that too. AP style seems write. I mean right. j

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