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How Do I Tell An Editor No? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

Hi Anne:

I’ve recently discovered About Freelance Writing and I quite enjoy the tips and job postings. I replied to a posting last week and was sent a contract, but have just done the math and discovered that it’s about 3 cents a word. I’ve decided I don’t want the job any more, but how do I tell the editor that, politely? (I haven’t signed the contract yet.)

Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.



Good for you for not wanting such low pay, although it can work for a few.

You tell an editor no the same way you tell anyone – politely and firmly. You’re wise not to want to burn any bridges; editors do move and you may run into this one again. You can also turn your answer into a pitch for higher pay, and it might work. I’d suggest a brief email something like this:

Dear (name), thanks so much for sending me a contract. I’m afraid, however, that unless you can see your way clear to pay me (x a word) I won’t be able to write for you.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


I wouldn’t waste any time waiting, but it’s totally professional to ask. Of course, if you don’t want to work for them under any circumstances, just thank them and tell them you won’t be able to write for them after all, giving no reason.

Do you have a question about freelance writing? Ask Anne, The Writing Pro – that’s me 😉 Ask in the comments or send an email and put Q&A in the subject line so I can sort it out from spam and I’ll do my best. Meanwhile, you’ll find some Q&A’s here: Ask Anne, The Pro Writer

Write well and often,


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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • kkat2019

    My partner is an extremely upset academic who has written an article for a major reference series. Previous entries were a good experience, but this time the proofs she received have destroyed the piece she has written beyond possibility of reasonable repair and she does not want the revised piece associated with her anymore. What are her options? Can she still withdraw her article?- she has a contract, but has not been paid yet. Any wiggle room here?
    Any advice would be appreciated, kkat

    • Kkat – your partner’s rights are all in the contract. She may be able to cancel or at least insist it not be published under her name. Also it’s possible that since it’s for a “major reference series” she can ask that her words be put back or for another editor… suggest she gently ask to start. It’s possible it can be fixed and published. Communicate with the editor – that’s the first step. Good luck.

  • There is no reason to hesitate to ask for what you want to be paid!

  • Hi Anne,

    Another great tip as always! Some editors do try to force their contracts and pay rates towards us. It’s the matter of keeping up your standards.

    Abha Agarwal’s last blog post..Using you brain power at its best 2

  • admin

    Thanks you two… yes, I bring up pay very early now… no longer embarrassed about it at all 😉

  • I agree with Lori, Anne — great advice.

    I also try to get the pay rate discussions out of the way before contract stage. I prefer the contract to reflect the pay we negotiated.

    Devon Ellington’s last blog post..Wednesday, January 28, 2009

  • Just re-tweeted this for you, Anne. Great advice. What strikes me is how sometimes we writers think that it’s not okay to refuse the work for whatever reason. And low pay is a very good reason to turn down work. Justifying it in the letter is perfect, for it removes all debate beyond the key point – getting more pay.

    Lori’s last blog post..Twitter-pated

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