This is called writing on spec, and it means you write the article with no contract and no guarantee that your article will be accepted or that you’ll be paid.
So…is it worth it to write on spec?
I generally avoid writing on spec due to a bad experience I had early in my career. The editor of a magazine that rhymes with Cat Schmancy asked me to write an article on spec and I agreed. Since the was no deadline and I had other assignments, I put the article on the back burner — but the editor kept emailing me asking when I’d be turning in the piece, so I rearranged my schedule to fit it in.
Two weeks after turning in the article, I got — wait for it — a form rejection. Not even a personal note!
I had rearranged my schedule and spent time on an article on spec, and ended up with a blowoff and no money.
However, if you’re not totally jaded like me, you may still be wondering if there are any times you should write an article on spec.
To determine if it’s worth it, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you a new writer and you really need/want the clip?
- Are you in love with the publication and really, really want to write for them?
- Are you fairly confident that the editor will accept your article?
- If the editor rejects your article, do you have a list of several other good markets you can send it to instead?
If you answered Yes to any of these questions, then you may want to say Yes to writing on spec. But if you answered all of them No, it may be a better idea to turn it down and spend the time you would have spent on the article pitching other markets or writing new queries.
How about you? Have you had a good/bad experience writing on spec? How do you decide whether to write on spec? Share your experiences in the Comments below! [lf]