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What to Do When an Editor Rejects Your Guest Post

editorContributing high-quality content to reputable online publications — niche and mainstream — is essential to a successful thought leadership strategy. Consumers are demanding educational, engaging content to learn more about who you are as a business leader, how your company excels in its industry, and why they should work with you. By publishing your guest content in the right external publications, you can effectively communicate this information to members of your target audience, extend your brand’s reach, establish subject matter authority and credibility, and build opportunities for engagement — and, therefore, grow your business

But landing your content in targeted online publications is difficult. Beyond developing ideas and writing content, you’ve got to pitch those content ideas to the publication editors and work with them to give your article life on their site. And sometimes, even after you’ve put in all the time and effort, your content is rejected.

Why Your Content Wasn’t Accepted

It’s important to remember that editors are most interested in selecting the kind of content that serves the publication’s readers — that’s an editor’s job. They’re reviewing hundreds upon hundreds of articles tackling similar industry trends, and they’re looking for any piece of content that stands out and delivers the most value to their readers.

If the content you submitted was not accepted, it’s likely for one of the following reasons:

1. The content wasn’t personal enough.

What ususally sets an article apart from other similar articles is your fresh take on the topic, your voice, and your personality. Editors and readers want to see what makes you a true thought leader on a particular subject, and what establishes that leadership is often born from your specific personal experiences.

Tying together your business expertise and personal, interesting stories is a great way to elevate a more general topic to one that editors and readers can connect with and truly enjoy. If an editor doesn’t initially accept a piece you’ve written, try incorporating more of yourself into your content. Remember that you and your personal story don’t detract from your content; your article is better when you allow your personal views and experiences to inform the content.

2. The content didn’t provide actionable takeaways.

While your ideas and commentary are great and enjoyable, your readers derive true value from what they can take away from your content. It’s critical that your content be guided by real research and experience and provide advice to your readers moving forward — especially when you’re tackling a topic that’s less concrete and more conceptual or abstract. A larger, global idea combined with a detailed example can provide a nice balance between inspiration and practicality. Readers don’t just want to know what to do — they want to know why and how to do it.

If your content doesn’t discuss how you’ve used your ideas in practice, how they’ve helped you grow your company, or how they can benefit others in the future, it’s not going to be very useful to readers. And if it’s not useful to readers, it’s not something an editor will accept.

3. The content didn't highlight your unique expertise.

This goes beyond showcasing your personality to connect with readers and extends into positioning yourself as the authority on your topic to demonstrate your thought leadership, and doing this requires more than simply agreeing with everyone in your space. You must be willing and able to take a stance on issues that are important to you and introduce your own unique thoughts and expertise in your analysis of those issues.

Think about what makes you a thought leader in the first place — chances are, it isn’t that you constantly reaffirm everyone else’s ideas. You’re a thought leader because of your passion, individual expertise, and innovative ideas. If you don’t include this element in your content, not only are you withholding value from your audience, but you’re also risking rejection by editors.

How to Bounce Back

It’s easy to feel defeated when you receive news that the content you created didn’t make the cut this time around, but that doesn’t mean your insights are worthless. You can still contribute to reputable online publications, and if you reflect on why your content wasn’t accepted, you can bounce back from rejection in time to submit again.

When your content is rejected, the publication’s editor will usually send you comments and reasoning behind why it wasn’t accepted. Read that feedback carefully, and consider it when you tackle your next submission.

In addition to the editor’s comments, keep these qualities of effective guest-contributed content in mind as you move forward to submit content that editors are excited to receive:

  • Insightful: Effectively and appropriately including yourself in your content is how you offer a connection to your audience, and that connection keeps them coming back to you. Your personal anecdotes, professional examples, and insider knowledge are really what make you and your content attractive to a reader and, as a result, an editor.

  • Educational: Readers don’t want to be bogged down by information that isn’t valuable or applicable to them. They’re reading your content to learn something, and they move quickly — if they don’t start to see value from your piece early on, they won’t continue. Ensuring your content is educational, relevant, and engaging to a publication’s audience can set you up for acceptance by the editor.

  • Actionable: Part of being educational and valuable is providing examples, both of how you’ve used your ideas and how others can, too. Provide specific, actionable advice so readers can take action right away and see a difference in their own lives. Remember, readers (and, therefore, editors) don’t want you to tell them what to do — you need to show them why and how to do it themselves.

  • Concise: You’ll want to check the publication guidelines, but many times, editors are looking for articles between 600 and 1,000 words. That might seem like a lot, but once you begin really diving into the topic, providing solid takeaways, and crafting an intriguing introduction and inspiring conclusion, that space quickly evaporates. Try to cut fluff, get to the point, and do it quickly.

Contributing your content to the online publications your audience is reading is important, and it’s not an easy job. At Influence & Co., our clients work with assigned account teams that are dedicated to helping them develop content ideas, find the right publications for their audience, write content, and submit finished products to the publication editors.

If you reference the practices our team uses, you can become a contributor at the online publications your audience loves, regardless of your content’s initial rejection. 

For more insights into what publication editors are looking for, download your copy of "The State of Digital Media 2018" below:

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About Sara Koller

Sara Koller is an account Strategist Influence & Co. She loves coffee, first editions, and almost anything outdoors.

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