What about multiple submissions?

16 Mar

In talking with writers who have an interest in writing for and getting published in magazines, a common question I get from them is: “What does it mean when an editor says he doesn’t want to receive multiple submissions?” And, close to that question, is this: “Can I only send one article at a time to a magazine? That seems like a waste of time to me.”

It’s difficult to get many articles published if you query on only one idea at a time. However, many publications ask that you not send them multiple submissions.

So, as a writer who desires publications and payment, what do you do?

In dealing with the dilemma, it’s important first to understand the concept of
multiple submissions. Sending multiple submissions means that you are sending the same article to more than one magazine at the same time. It would be an ethical issue if you had competing magazines (magazines that have the same audiences) with your same article on slate for publication. Ethical and intelligent ways exist, though, to increase your chances of success and not cause a problem among different publications. Here are the two basic principles to follow:

1. Do send as many query letters on the same article idea to as many magazines as you can think of.

While you must not send the same, complete article to competing magazines, you should send query letters to as many magazines as possible. All of them will not be interested in your idea, but perhaps one or more will be. Imagine, though, that you have created a list of 10 magazines you think might like the idea and you send a query to only one magazine at a time, waiting to get a response from it before querying the next magazine on your list. Also imagine that, on average, it takes each magazine one month to reply to your query and that the first one to accept your idea is the seventh one you query. That means it would take seven months before you get a go-ahead.

Instead of waiting so long, go ahead at the beginning and send queries to all
10 magazines.

2. Do not send the same manuscript to competing magazines, but come up with
other slants to the same general idea.

Most competing magazines–all women’s magazines or all teen magazines,
for example–publish articles on the same general topics (health, relationships,
diet, etc.). So several of them could be interested in the same idea about which
you query. If you send out multiple queries at the same time, then, it is possible that more than one magazine will give you a go-ahead. If more than one magazine wants your article, you then have the following
options:

a. You could send your article to only one magazine and tell the others of
your decision.

b. You could send your article to one magazine–and not reply to the other
magazines–and then, in the event the first magazine decides not to publish the
article, send it to a second magazine.

c. You could write an article for each of the magazines that give you a go-
ahead, with each article taking a distinctive approach to the idea.

Multiple articles on the same general idea are not a problem. Keep in mind that magazines in the same field publish numerous articles about the same topics issue after issue. If two or more magazines want an article from you, simply assure that you use different material–such as sources, quotations, and anecdotes–for each article.

When you sell an article to one magazine, take your success as an indication
that you have a good idea, one that might interest other magazines. So work with the idea, slant it differently, and propose an article to a competing magazine.

(This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Writing Feature Articles: The Professional Guide to Publishing in Magazines, Newspapers, and Online. It will be available in Summer, 2012.)

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One Response to “What about multiple submissions?”

  1. rhemajoy March 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    You can put me down to purchase your new book, Cheryl! I really needed this information today as I am planning to write an article next week for my first attempt at magazine submission. Thanks again!

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