By January 25, 2021

Top Mistakes You Are Making When You Are Pitching Articles to Simple Programmer

Have you ever wanted to write a guest post for Simple Programmer?

Like our website, it is something that can often appear complex, but is actually quite simple.

We even have an entire page dedicated to helping contributors to learn what we are looking for, and how they can pitch us their submissions, including two previous articles I’ve written with the exact details and process for getting guest posts published with Simple Programmer (and, for what it’s worth, many sites beyond our little corner of the internet.)

Even with all this information, the declining state of my submissions queue and inboxes tells me that giving all the how-to’s and approaching this positively still is not working.

So today, I’m going to tell you the top mistakes we see in the Simple Programmer submissions queue, and how you can avoid making them — so your piece gets published!

Simple Programmer’s Submissions Approval Rate

This is something that has never really changed, and can sound a little intimidating.

At Simple Programmer, our editorial team approves less than 35% of the submissions we receive.

That sounds scary, huh?

But it doesn’t have to be!

Because John has invested in his editorial content so much, we are often more than willing to work with a contributor who is inexperienced with writing for other websites, or has an idea but needs some help pulling it together.

There are only a few things we need to see here to take a chance, most of the time:

  • You actually want to write for Simple Programmer. I’m not talking about “Yeah, a backlink from a website with high domain authority would be great for my brand” — I’m saying that you have an idea for a piece that you think would really resonate with our readers, and you are excited to work with us to get it published.
  • You actually followed the directions. Sending a submission in for us to review is not rocket science. There is a massive orange button at the bottom of the page that says “Submit Your Article Here”, and that’s really where you should submit your article.
  • You actually want to work with us at Simple Programmer. Our editorial process is not to get a half-assed draft and publish it without review. Instead, we have a number of editorial rounds your piece may go through. There are guidelines for pieces published on our site. Most of our regular contributors come back to publish multiple pieces because they like this honing of their writing skills — and our editorial team is a delight to work with (though we may be a little biased!)

It’s when people make the mistakes I’m about to share that we start seeing massive red flags, and choose not to move forward on a piece or with a contributor.

This is going to be pretty short and sweet, because I don’t like to dwell on negatives when it comes to a writer putting themselves out there for approval. It is one of the worst feelings a creative person can go through, to lay it out and wait for potential rejection.

No one likes rejection.

And honestly, I don’t like doling out rejections. It is one of the suckiest parts of being a Managing Editor.

Before I jump into these mistakes that people make again and again in our submissions queue, let me make one point very clear: I’m always looking for a reason to say yes.

Unfortunately, there are some things that instead give me a reason to say no.

Mistake #1 – You Didn’t Read the Guidelines and Process

You could say that this one makes me the angriest.

We make it stupidly simple to follow a process, which is pretty inline with our core value of making the complex simple.

Read the guidelines, follow the directions, email us with actual legitimate questions.

Which brings me to Mistake #2…

Mistake #2 – Not Wanting to Waste Your Time

You might be surprised to learn how many emails I get on a daily basis that include some variation of the question “What can I write about?” (after I’ve sent our guidelines for submission.)

Which is frustrating since the middle of our Write for Us page has a section that literally says, in large Heading 2 font, “What Can You Write About?” This section has 5 general topics, with explanation and examples, of the specific content we are looking for.

Now, if you have a thorough and well-thought out idea for a piece, and would like to know if you are going in the right direction or should adjust, then I’m happy to help suss that out for your final submission.

And I get it. You are probably trying to get as many backlinks and pieces posted as you can, so it is a real waste of your time to have to put in much effort on a pitch before you get approved to write and/or publish it.

Shockingly, it is a real waste of my time to go back and forth with someone who isn’t willing to put any effort into a piece as well.

Mistake #3 – A Title is Not A Pitch

There is not much to say beyond this one simple statement, that might just change your entire pitching process.

I cannot make a serious offer of approval on a piece based on a title.

There are so many ways an article could go based on one statement, and what I envision versus what you are going to write could go down vastly divergent paths through the woods.

Tell me, in 2-3 short sentences, what your piece will be about, and what information you will share.

Again, give me a reason to say yes.

Mistake #4 – Not Tailoring Your Pitch to Our Audience

Though I get a lot of pitches about topics so completely unrelated to Simple Programmer’s general content that it is laughable at best (and a scathing commentary on the state of guest posts and backlink building in this day and age at worst), I’m not talking about irrelevant submissions.

Those get declined without a second glance.

I’m instead talking about content that is adjacent to, but not directly for, our readers.

Broad career and tech topics, that could be found on any website about…well…career and tech topics.

Our readers come to Simple Programmer to learn how to improve their lives and careers as programmers and developers.

Tailor your content to that objective, and we can talk.

Mistake #5 – Not Reading or Following the Directions

I mentioned this above, but it is so often not done that it bears repeating.

For cold emails and queries we get about writing for us, we send a canned response directing them to our Write for Us page.

Still, we’ll get emails back asking questions that are clearly answered on the page.

Or sending the full piece or pitch, even though there is a huge orange button at the bottom of the page that says “Submit Your Article Here.”

Here is why this is such a problem.

Occasionally, I will get a reply saying something to the effect of “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see that in the page. I’ll go back and reread to follow your process more carefully.”

In which case, cool beans. When the submission pops up in our queue, I have no harsh feelings or ill-will toward the contributor.

We all make mistakes.

But when I get 4-5 questions in an email thread, asking me to do the work for you, then I can tell that is exactly what is going to happen in this publication process.

You expect our editorial team to do your work for you.

And that isn’t going to happen.

The Secret to Getting Published on Simple Programmer (or Anywhere, Really!)

Editors and content managers have a lot going on.

But one of their most important tasks is making sure that there is content published on schedule.

To do that…they need content to publish.

So they are looking for a reason to say yes.

Follow their guidelines and submission process. Pitch them a well-thought out piece of content that is tailored to and a win for their readers. Make their job easy by showing them that you are an expert and professional that will be a delight to work with. Have some frickin’ pride in what you are doing, rather than playing a numbers game.

I cannot think of more than a half-dozen situations across all the websites and publications I manage where someone put serious consideration into a pitch, and we weren’t willing to work on it with them (or work with them on a different angle/topic if the pitch was simply something we weren’t interested in.)

We want to say yes to your submission to Simple Programmer.

Give us a reason.

About the author

Elisa Doucette

Elisa is the Managing Editor for Simple Programmer. She spends most of her time working with John, SP writers, and her editorial team to provide the best content out there for programmers who want to make the complex simple. When she's not shuffling cards on the Trello boards, she is in a cafe writing, curled up in a leather chair reading, or jumping on a plane to destinations unknown. You can find more of her editing and writing work at her agency, Craft Your Content, or sharing a ton of great articles on Twitter @elisadoucette.