When freelance writers ask about magazine articles I often suggest they make simultaneous submissions when they are submitting complete articles over the transom.
‘Over the transom’ by definition means you’re submitting something without getting any sort of go-ahead form an editor or other staffer at the magazines in question. The submission is completely on ‘spec’ – your goal is, of course, to sell the article. It can be a good way to break into a magazine.
I suggest simultaneous submissions even though I know darn well that almost every magazine states in its market listings it doesn’t accept or doesn’t want simultaneous submissions. Once in a great while you will run into a listing that allows simultaneous submissions, but it’s rare.
My Thinking About Simultaneous Submissions
When an editor asks for an exclusive submission without any prior relationship with you they are essentially asking for an option on your article without being willing to pay for it and I think that’s patently unfair.
Editors will argue that they need time to properly evaluate a piece and, if interested, to make an offer. That’s true, but that doesn’t make it fair.
The problem is it generally takes at least two weeks for that process and six to eight weeks is more likely. Even with the optimum, if the article is rejected by the first two magazines it’s a minimum six weeks until the writers can accept the offer from the third.
If the usual happens, it can take four months or longer before you can even consider submitting the article to the third magazine. I think that’s silly, and I suspect editors know that.
Is There a Risk to Submitting Simultaneously?
Sure there’s a risk if you submit a copy of same article to several magazines. You might receive an offer from two of them and have to annoy the editor whose offer you reject. Annoying editors isn’t a good idea, but annoying an editor isn’t a career killer either.
But the truth is, particularly if you’re a beginner, you’re unlikely to face this problem. You’ll be lucky to sell one and the rest will either get you a rejection slip, an invitation to write something else or drop into that black hole we writers come to know so well. In fact, if you get two acceptances celebrate.
Now, I don’t suggest you sent out exactly duplicate queries. Instead, even if you’re submitting roughly the same idea to several editors, shape each one very specifically for that magazine. There’s still some risk that you’ll receive more than one acceptance, but the chances are you’ll be able to make each article different enough so each is unique enough for the publications in question.
Nor do I suggest that you use simultaneous submissions if you’ve got a relationship with one or more magazines. You want to protect and encourage that relationship and those editors who have already published your work deserve extra consideration.
Of course, to be extra safe you’ll follow the rules. But this is one instance where I feel strongly the rules can be broken.
What’s been your experience with simultaneous submissions?
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