Monday, 26 March 2012

Simultaneous Pitch Submissions

There was an interesting article in the April issue of Writers' Forum magazine (see cover shot) about simultaneous submissions, where an American writer suggested sending the same article idea/pitch out to several editors. He mentioned that only on a handful of occasions had more than one editor expressed an interest in his idea, leading him to have to explain to one editor that another had beaten them to it.

This has generated a bit of a debate amongst some of my students, and in the May 2012 issue of Writers' Forum (yes, it's not even the end of March yet, but the May issue is out!) Elaine Everest wrote to the letters page stating that, in her opinion, the practise is unprofessional and an awful idea. (But at least she's got a new Moleskine notebook out of it, having taken the trouble to write a letter to the publication!)

I can understand the thinking behind simultaneous submissions - it can take ages for an editor to respond, if at all. There is an argument that if an editor likes an idea, they will get back to you quickly, and if not then they won't bother at all ... although my latest commission, received on Friday, came from a pitch I made in the first week of January.

I often pitch many editors with the same basic idea, although the treatment of the idea will vary for the editor's readership, therefore I'm technically offering different ideas/articles to the editors - because each pitch will have a different angle.

There is also one other important point to note - market reach/size. The author of the original article in Writers' Forum was an American-based writer, so was writing about his experience in the American market. Because of the vast size of that country, it is much easier to sell the same article to many different publications because their readership does not overlap. An article about seven ways to save money could be sold to a New York circulation magazine, a Dallas circulation publication and a San Francisco publication, without the readership of either of these publications overlapping. (The writer could even specify selling to each publication First New York Serial Rights, First Dallas Serial Rights and First San Francisco Serial Rights, purely because of the size of the country.)

At the moment, I feel that submitting EXACTLY the same idea to two, or more, publications at the same time is asking for trouble. Whether I still think that in 2015 will be another matter. Perhaps I'll come back to this topic then!

Good luck. 

10 comments:

  1. A great post, Simon. I recently chased up a pitch submission and, today, received a rejection with 'so sorry not to have replied sooner'. It has taken them four months, and even then I had to chase them. Consequently, my own view is that it depends on how generic the pitch is, and whether you plan to write commercially.

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    1. Hi Derek,

      Yes, it is a shame when editors take so long to get back to you. Today, I've had an editor reject a pitch that I first submitted at the beginning of February. I had chased and got no response, so I assumed that the editor was not interested and I've pitched it elsewhere. So, it was interesting to get the rejection from the first pitch today!

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  2. Hi Simon - I enjoyed your post and think your final paragraph hits the spot. My letter on this topic was also printed in Writers' Forum mag, though I took a more contrary position as I do find this a peculiar rule of the writing world. If a pitch were successful then surely the author can simply let other editors know this and avoid any upset. I guess it can take long enough to get any response from an editor so perhaps if they all received simultaneous pitches the publication world could implode... And I think you're right about the differences between US and UK markets and variety of outlets in the US. Probably most of us in the UK tend to pitch features which are tailored to specific magazine/publication and so the issue of simultaneous pitching doesn't often arise.

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    1. Hi Tracy,

      I thought your letter raised an interesting point too - it contrasted well with Elaine's, who is certainly an experienced writer.

      In the world of novels, it always used to be that you should never send your novel (3 chapter & synopsis submission) to more than one publisher/agent at the same time, but because of the time it takes to respond, it is today accepted as standard practise. Some publishers will insist, though, that if they ask to read the whole manuscript of your novel, that they have the exclusive right to do so - which some seem as fair because they're putting a lot of time into that.

      The writing world is an ever-changing one!

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  3. I rarely do it, and would never with regular clients or with any editor who responds quickly.

    But I have and I would with not-yet / very irregular clients who have form in dragging their heels in responding. If they do come back to you, you can always politely say 'sorry, that one's gone' but offer them others.

    A.

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    1. I think that's a sensible attitude to take re regular clients, Alex. They are definitely the ones you don't want to upset!

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  4. I send to one publication, but add a note that if I haven't heard from them within .......( usually three weeks unless it's very time-sensitive) then I shall understand they are not interested and will forward it to another publication.

    I have always had quick acceptances, and no pub has ever returned after the date and said they wanted it.
    Ann

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    1. Great idea, Ann! Editors understand when ideas are topical. And I'm sure that if an editor did respond after your deadline, they'd be much more understandable to the situation, and may actively seek a different angle on the same topic instead.

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  5. Hey Simon, you've been tagged. Please come over and visit my blog. Thank you :-)

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  6. Interesting post, Simon. I tend to agree with you regarding the fact that writing in the UK and writing in the US is a different experience. At present, I wouldn't submit the same pitch to several mags publications. It is frustrating when people don't get back to you, or wait months to do it but I think on the off chance that two people did accept it, then by having to turn one of them down, you're probably shutting yourself off from any further potential work from that editor as I can't see they would be too amused.

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