Freelancer Asks: Is It OK to Pitch a Piece to Several Publications at Once?

Freelancer Asks: Is It OK to Pitch a Piece to Several Publications at Once?

This is one of the most common questions freelancers ask, so it’s a good one for us to address:

I have a piece I’ve pitched to one outlet, but I know that outlet can be slow in getting back, and the piece is time-sensitive. Is it kosher to pitch it to several places, then to let the others know if one picked it up? Or is etiquette to just do them one by one?

Our managing editor Alexis Grant, who has experience both as a freelancer and an editor, weighs in:

Whenever an editor is slow to respond to a pitch, it puts the writer in a tough position. If you pitched that publication, you’re likely hoping, perhaps even desperately, that the editor will say “yes.” But freelancers also can’t wait forever for a reply, and sometimes busy editors don’t respond at all.

So how long should you wait before pitching a different publication? And when you do, what’s your responsibility to the first editor?

Here’s the key to handling this situation: communication. (Click to tweet this.) So long as you keep the first editor in the loop about the status of your story, you’re good.

One of the most frustrating ways to get burned as an editor is to reply to a writer a few days after she has pitched you saying you want the piece, only to be informed the writer has sold it to someone else. So when you decide you’ve waited long enough and it’s time to move onto publication #2, shoot the editor a quick note — preferably in the same email string as your original pitch so she is easily reminded of which story you’re talking about — and let her know you’ve pitched it elsewhere.

Not only is this courteous; it might work in your favor, too. This is an opportunity for you to give the editor one last chance to claim the story. If it’s time-sensitive, remind the editor about that, too.

So how long should you wait before you take a stab at publication #2?

While there’s no hard-and-fast rule, I’d give an editor at least a week to get back to you, unless the story will be old and stale by then.

Before you move on though, be sure to send the editor a gentle follow-up — I’d send one four or five days after the initial note. Editors often suffer from full-inbox syndrome, and sometimes that means missing pitches that are a good fit for their publication.

Let’s recap your timeline

Again, there’s no ONE right answer here, but your timeline might look like this:

Day 1: Send your personalized pitch

Day 4-7: Email your follow-up

Day 8-14 (unless your story is time-sensitive): Pitch another publication, and email the original editor to let him know

Sound like a plan?

Do you have a loose timeline you use for pitching editors? Share it in the comments!

Filed Under: Freelancing
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