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Guidelines Provide Key To Success – Ask Anne

Freelance writing questions and answersHello Anne,

I’m a new freelance writer and I submitted an article by email to an online publication over 3 weeks ago and haven’t heard anything since. Their writers’ guidelines don’t say how long it takes them to respond or whether simultaneous submissions are acceptable. There isn’t even a name to submit to – just an editor@xyz.com address.

I’m wondering how long to wait? Should I assume they’re not interested and go ahead with submitting the article elsewhere? If a publication doesn’t specifically say simultaneous submissions aren’t OK, are they?

I’m also wondering about the article’s length. It’s quite a bit longer than they specify in their writers’ guidelines. I decided to try them anyway because it seemed to fit their subject matter, the length comes from the amount of very specific information included, an online publication has leeway for article length, and this is a non-paying publication.

Did I make a mistake?



Hi L,

Freelancing writing can sure be frustrating at times, I know.

You’re really asking several things in your email. Let me answer them one at a time:

It sounds like you submitted an article without knowing much about the online publication, probably because they didn’t supply much information. You might be able to tell a bit more by trying the xyz.com in your web browser and see if you find the magazine. My hunch is you won’t. If you do, you can try another email asking about your article, or better yet call. Three weeks is plenty of time for them to respond or at least acknowledge they received it.

Although I certainly have broken many freelance writing rules, it’s rare that a publication will actually accept an article that doesn’t meet their guidelines, including length. They list things like length for a reason that’s clear to them even if it’s not clear to you. A better approach might have been to shorten it to their length, even if that meant sacrificing interesting and good writing. (A FAQ About Writing For Magazines mostly applies to online publications as well.)

Although there are pros who disagree, I tend to ignore the no simultaneous submissions rule. (You may want to read Simultaneous Query – Worst Fear Comes True.)

It seems to me that a publisher who demands that is actually asking for an option without being willing to pay for it. It’s a game I’ll rarely play. Truly good publishers won’t hold up an article or a proposal very long because they understand this concept. Second tier publishers and others will often sit on a proposal for weeks or even months. I doubt they mean to do tie up your work. Rather I think they are just disorganized.

If, however, the publication makes no statement about simultaneous submissions I feel entirely free to do so, always saying, however, that I am submitting a copy of whatever.

You ask if you made a mistake. Maybe, maybe not. But since your submission seems to have fallen into a black hole you may want to take a different approach next time.

Good luck!

Got a question? Email me with Q & A in the subject line and I’ll try to answer it for you.


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