Because I foolishly wrote publicly I was scaling back my copywriting work to pursue editorial work, I’m now forced to cobble together some story ideas and send them to editors.
And one thing is bothering me. In fact, it has always bothered me about the editorial world.
The prohibition against simultaneous submissions to multiple magazines.
I understand the impulse from the editor’s side of the equation; if you’re going to take weeks (or months) to evaluate somebody’s pitch, you don’t want another editor swiping the idea from under your nose.
Or starting a bidding war for the article.
I can see why editors like that.
I can’t see why writers would.
Submitting to one publication at a time locks up a potentially valuable story idea for upwards of a couple months. And puts exactly zero pressure on a publication to pay what a good story idea is really worth.
A more serious problem with silo pitching is that by extending exclusivity to a single magazine in advance means the the writer has effectively given up any ability to negotiate the contract when it comes time to sign. There’s never a chance to allow the market to value a writers’ work by getting input from multiple potential buyers. Instead the writer has almost no option than accept whatever deal the magazine puts up. This is why bad deals are now the industry standard.
In prior posts, I’ve said that give and take with a copywriting client is normal, but that you don’t give clients value without getting some in return.
A client wants you to sign a non-compete, or guarantee them a certain number of hours each month?
Fine. You give that to them, and you get more money in return.
What, exactly, are freelance writers getting when they submit ideas to only one editor at a time?
(Hint: it’s probably not a market rate for the project — or the leverage to negotiate away troubling clauses in the contract.)
My experiences in the editorial world are admittedly thin. They’ve been spread over several decades. And they rarely involved a pitch. So I’m willing to hear the Undergrounders on this one.
Is the risk of “offending” editors that real? Are writers really so afraid to hang a value on their work?
Should I just submit the good ideas to multiple magazines and let the chips fall?
Or am I heading straight for the Nine Rings of editorial hell?
Keep writing, Tom Chandler.