Should freelance writers submit multiple query letters to magazines? I’ve been avoiding this topic on Quips and Tips for Successful Writers for months…and it’s time to ‘fess up!
“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein.
This is exactly how I feel about simultaneous submissions to magazines! It’s not necessarily wrong if done right…but it feels a little dirty. To learn everything under the sun about sending query letters to magazines, read The Writers Digest Guide To Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas.
And here are my tips on submitting the same query letters to different magazines at the same time…
Writers and Multiple Query Letters
1. Avoid the “shot gun” query letter approach. Don’t send the exact same query letter to different magazine editors! Instead, address the unique editor, readership, and style of the magazine in each query letter. This way, it’s not exactly “multiple query letters”, as each letter suits each particular magazine.
2. Explain why your article fits a particular magazine. If, for instance, you’re pitching an article about query letters to both Writer’s Digest and The Writer….find out what’s been covered in the past in each magazine, whether the readers are newbies or professionals, and what problems or questions they have. In your query letter, tell the editor why the article fits that particular magazine. For more info, read Tips for Improving Your Query Letters.
3. Remember that a query letter isn’t the same as a finished article. This my favorite tip for submitting multiple query letters: one query letter can lead to several different magazine articles. “Go ahead and query several magazines at the same time on the same topic if you think you can write several different articles on the same subject,” says W. Terry Whalin, of Right-Writing.com. “One magazine may ask for 500 words on the topic while another may approach it from an entirely different viewpoint and ask for 2,000 words.”
4. Respect your regular magazine editors. I’ve pitched Family Circle about a dozen times; never heard back. I’ve pitched Today’s Parent several times and I get a response every single time (no acceptances, though!). When I think I have a great article idea, I’ll pitch it to my regular editors who respond first, and then – if nobody picks it up after several weeks – will send it to my “long shots.” Since my chances of getting an assignment from Family Circle or Oprah magazine are truly tiny, I don’t have a problem sending them simultaneous query letters.
5. Do what works for you. A famous rule for writing (and life) is to know the rules – and know when to break them. Different writers have different perspectives on submitting multiple query letters to magazines. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I’ve made tons of mistakes during my freelance writing career,
Here’s how John Wood, author of How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters, sums it up:
“Shotgun the sucker to as many editors as you can. You’re the writer; you’re the one who has to pay your bills while waiting (sometimes for months) to hear back from each publication. Editors are notorious for not replying at all– even if you include an SASE. The obvious exception would be an idea that is focused to a particular magazine; in that case you should only send it to that place. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t rewrite it and refocus the same general idea to several different similar magazines and send them all out at the same time.” (Source: Don’t Fall Into the Query Letter Quandry by Shery Ma Belle Arrieta).
Fellow scribes, what are your experiences with or tips for submitting multiple query letters to magazines?
I think simultaneous submissions are becoming more acceptable – but freelance writers have to be careful not to burn bridges! One of my major writing mistakes was selling a similar article to two different magazines. I was taken to task – ouch – and as a result am (perhaps overly) cautious about pitching and selling my articles.