How NOT to Get Published

Sometimes, we get really interesting emails from people wanting to collaborate or contribute articles to our parenting magazine. Usually I ignore them, but every once in a while I can’t resist the urge to respond. This mostly happens when they bug us repeatedly. You’d think they would get the hint after their first three emails didn’t receive a response, but you would be wrong.

Today was one of those days when I couldn’t resist. This guy from a law firm in New Jersey has been hounding us for the past week. Here are a few excerpts:


Hey there! I’m Eric, content editor at [REDACTED] Attorney at Law and I’m fathomed with your website content! And you probably are, too lol. I was snooping through your site while brainstorming and wanted to reach out and tell you how AMAZING I think it is. Awesome job. Are you keen on guest contributions?


Hey there! I’m coming back around to see if you got a chance to read my previous email. Since I haven’t heard back I assume you probably didn’t fancy my proposal (*silent cry*). If you have any ideas in mind, I’d love to hear (or in this case read) about them. Maybe we can find some common ground and knock this out of the ball park. It’d be fabulous if we could work together to create something our audience can enjoy.


Hey there! So it’s been about a week and my hopes are starting to die down regarding our possible collaboration for a guest post. I do understand you have other priorities on your to-do list but I still have some hope you’ll take the time to take a quick look through my ideas and think about how awesome this article could be.

I shot him back an email today. I normally don’t bother because it comes from my personal work account rather than the generic “editorial” email address he was blindly submitting to, but I had to get this guy to stop.

While I appreciate your enthusiasm, I’m not sure what “I’m fathomed with your website content” even means (though I assume you’re saying you’re impressed with it). Our posts are pretty well scheduled out, so we are not in need of guest contributions at this time. Thank you for your interest, however, and keep on defending New Jersey! Somebody’s gotta do that. 

Best of luck!

Seriously, though. Fathomed?! That denotes understanding (or alternately, water depth)—neither of which makes a bit of sense in that context. Plus, how is it “our audience”? You’re a law firm in New Jersey, we’re a publishing company in South Dakota. Never mind the fact that he’s trying way too hard to be cute and clever. I can’t stand that. Don’t get me wrong; I love slapstick humor and bad puns, but not in a professional setting where you’re offering your services. This guy would be a lot of fun to hang out with in a bar, but I wouldn’t want to publish his parenting advice, you know?

By the way, he responded. Hey, Mark – Thanks for the reply!

You’re welcome, law firm guy. Now go away.

Incidentally, we do accept guest contributions and freelance articles from time to time. I purchased one for our upcoming winter issue. But these are from seasoned professionals who know their shit (and how to sell it). If you’re thinking of reaching out to a publication and asking about a potential collaboration, here are some helpful hints:

  • Flattery will get you nowhere. At least not when it’s over the top like law-firm guy-Eric’s. His subject line was “Your Website is Mind-blowing!” and he kept saying how INCREDIBLE and AWESOME our publication is. You’re trying too hard when you do that. Stick to something like, “I enjoy your magazine and have an article that might appeal to your audience” instead.
  • If you want to be taken seriously, be professional. There’s a time and place for humor and casual conversation, but an introductory email where you’re trying to sell yourself is neither the time nor the place. I don’t know you, so don’t act like we’re buddies. And please don’t use words like “awesome” or pepper your email with EMOJIS or things like (“silent cry”), for godsakes!
  • Have a finished product, not just an idea. Law firm guy gave me a list of topic ideas he came up with “off the top of my head” and then wanted to know if I had any ideas! Umm, yeah…a whole magazine’s worth, that I brainstormed with my team. If you’re coming to me with a proposal, have something concrete. The freelancers I contract with always attach the finished article to their query. This allows me to look it over and decide on the spot whether it’s a good fit or not.
  • Be a subject matter expert. In other words, write about what you know. We aim for credibility. If I were producing an airplane magazine, I wouldn’t publish an article from somebody whose sole experience involved flying kites.

Above all else, remember that a generic “editorial @ magazine dot com” address will be read by a real, live person. Like ME. And sometimes, I might even call you out on your bullshit submission. Adhere to these tips and your chances of being published go way up.

Go get ’em, tigers!

25 thoughts on “How NOT to Get Published

  1. My thoughts exactly. Before I even got to email #2 I looked up “fathomed with.” I thought, “Is there a use of ‘fathom’ that I don’t know about?” I also lamented his informal tone. Our society has gotten way too lax in its communications. (The emails the husband receives from his students make that all too clear.) Equally worrying is the fact that it was an attorney who used made-up phrasing and didn’t know to apply a formal register. God help me if I ever need a lawyer!

    By the way, your I’m TOTALLY fathomed with your blog, dude!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “I’m not sure what “I’m fathomed with your website content” even means.”

    Ha! Mark, that’s exactly what I thought when I read that. I mean, what does “fathomed” even mean!?

    I think your response was perfect! It was direct, but very professional and kind.

    It’s so ironic that you posted about this topic because I keep getting emails from companies who either offer to write posts on my blog pertaining to their company, or ask if I’m interested in posting about their company and they’ll pay me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve declined, yet they still keep sending emails. I’ve gotten to the point where I simply label them SPAM, so I don’t have to read them anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t want to come right out and insult the guy, but I couldn’t pass up pointing out his blatant error. Glad I responded with the right tone.

      I’ve had similar requests on my blog and always ignore them, too. I’m here to entertain and keep a record of my life, not help sell somebody else’s product!


  3. So much weirdness about this! It sounds like spam, but I guess not with the personal reply to you. The emails sound like spam blogger comments from someone who hasn’t read one post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If this was the first time I received an email like this, I might think it was spam, too. Sadly these are a pretty common occurrence. There have been times when I know the person who emailed me had clearly never looked at our publication or website.


  4. Ah, but didn’t you know that ideas are the most important part of writing? Putting them on paper is easy!

    Or so think the dozens of folks who say, “You’re a writer? I have a great idea! You write the story and we’ll split the profits.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keep in mind I’m the guy who once sent a resume back to a job applicant after I’d circled all his many errors with a red marker. It was so bad, he had NO chance of getting hired anywhere, so I figured I was doing him a favor.

      Hopefully he’s matured, and all these years later still recounts that story about the time a company he applied to sent his error-filled resume back to him, sparking a change in his life that inspired him to pursue higher education and clean up his atrocious spelling and grammar. Hey, a guy can hope, right?

      Come to think of it, I need to write about this incident in a future blog post…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t. I can’t. I read “I’m fathomed with your website content!” and I had to lean back in my office chair and laugh helplessly for a hot minute before I could get myself under control. I have a mad urge to look this guy up and see what his conviction record is. How is a laywer that ignorant?

    Incidentally, I’m utterly spelunked by your posts! Wanna collab? Obviously I will come up with the ideas and then you can just pound them out, and we’ll split the profits 50/50! (Crap, I almost typed all that with a stright face.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You remind me of somebody with a similar-sounding name that I read elsewhere. 🙂

      I assumed at first he was a lawyer too, but then I read in his email that he is a “content editor for a law firm,” which makes this whole thing even worse IMHO. He, of all people, should know better!


  6. Nearsighted, but not close-sighted. Because their eyes are so large, cats can’t focus on anything less than a foot in front of them — but their whiskers can swing forward to feel what they can’t clearly see. 


  7. It is interesting and fun to read some of the behind the scenes antics, Mark. Did he actually type in “silent cry?”

    A very entertaining post and also made me feel better. I am always a work in progress and trying to improve my writing skills, yet I fathom I am still in the ballpark when it comes to writing in general. Thanks for my smile (oops, is that flattery?) 😁


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