The Art of the Simultaneous Query

For some reason, this week I got the same question from at least four writers: Should you send your queries to several markets at once, or e-mail to one at a time and wait for a response before sending it along to the next market on your list?

In general, I’m all for sending simultaneous queries.

The reason? Especially when you’re at the beginning of your career and don’t have many editor relationships, you’ll find that editors often take weeks to get back to you — if they get back to you at all. And if that’s the way they work, they certainly can’t expect you to give them an exclusive look at your idea. After all, if you sent to one at a time and had to wait weeks each go-round, your idea could go stale before you had a chance to make a sale.

However, it’s not that simple. Here are some things to consider before deciding whether to send simultaneous submissions:

Do you have a relationship with an editor? If you have a relationship with an editor who would be a good market for your pitch — whether you’ve written for her before or she’s invited you to pitch — send there first and give her a week or two to get back to you. If you don’t hear back after a polite follow-up, send your query along to the rest of the magazines on your list.

Do you have both big and small markets on your pitch list? If you have some dream magazines and some B-listers on your list, you might want to send to the A-list first — because nothing would stink more than selling an idea to a regional pub that pays 10 cents per word and then finding out once it’s too late that your dream magazine wants it.

Do you need a shot of confidence? On the other hand, if you’re new to writing, you may want to send to the easier-to-break-into markets (that is, the smaller pubs) first just because they’re more likely to give you an assignment, or at least a friendly rejection. This does a lot more for your shaky confidence as a newbie than the wall of silence you often get from the national pubs.

Should you come clean with the editor? No — you don’t need to mention in your query that you’re sending to more than one place at once. How you conduct your business is only your concern.

What will you do if two magazines want the story? Let me assure you this is very rare. It’s happened to me only once in 15 years: Family Circle bought my idea, and then a week later Woman’s Day wanted it. I told the editor at Woman’s Day that I had already sold the idea, and she said, “Well, we’ll have to be faster next time.” And I went on to write for both of those magazines.

So that’s what you do: You sell to whoever gets back to you first (assuming you want to sell it to that magazine given the terms of the assignment). If two editors get to you at the exact same time wanting your story, you sell it to the one you like best and tell the other one you already sold it. If the magazines are not competing, you could offer a reslanted version of your idea to the second magazine.

Do you send simultaneous queries? If no, why not? Have you ever had two magazines want the story at the same time? What did you do? [lf]

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8 comments… add one
  • Thank you for taking the time to answer my question! This is very helpful to those of us just getting started in writing for magazines.
    Ann

  • *Exactly* the information I was looking for, Linda! Thanks so much!!

    Lori

  • Good points! Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you Linda! You provided so much clarity and insight and managed to nail just about every question I had regarding this topic. Greatly appreciated!

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