Ask The Freelance Dude #20 – Shopping Around


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Dear Freelance Dude,

I’m gearing up to start pitching some things but have always wondered what the hard and fast rules on pitching a single idea or spec piece are. Is pitching one piece to multiple outlets a bad idea? Also, can you keep pitching a rejected piece to other outlets until it’s picked up? Are there any other tips to speed up the process or is it best left alone?

Signed,
James A.

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Dear James,

Welcome to the danger zone [cue cheesy Top Gun guitar rock]! Sure, it’s possible to live your freelance life on the edge, but sooner or later you’re bound to hit some turbulence if you play it too fast and loose. Simultaneously pitching the exact same article idea to multiple competing outlets is asking for trouble. It may indeed improve your chances of getting an editor to bite, but it also increases the odds that more than one editor will want to commission the piece, leaving you with a very tough, extremely awkward decision to make.

This type of scenario puts you in the icky position of having to turn around and tell an editor you’ve just piqued the interest of that “Sorry, I just sold this piece to your competition! Whoopsie!” As you can imagine, pulling this kind of stunt isn’t going to endear that editor to giving you another shot down the road. It might even put you on their blacklist of freelancers to ignore. It’s far better to play it safe and keep your pitches targeted at one publication at a time.

Of course, rejection or lack of a response from one outlet doesn’t have to be the death knell for your article pitch. It’s totally fine to take your pitch and try it elsewhere if it gets shot down by an editor or if enough time has passed without any reponse to your follow-ups. If you do decide to try firing your pitch to another outlet, it’s a good idea to take a moment to look it over, see if there’s any way you can improve it, and make any necessary adjustments to better tailor it to the new publication you’re targeting.

If the waiting game is driving you nuts, it’s OK to follow-up a few times with an editor to inquire about the status of your pitch. Aside from the fact they’re often extremely busy, there are many other reasons why an editor may take awhile to get back to you. Not all of them are bad either. Try to space your follow-up e-mails out by a week or two. If they don’t get back to you after a few polite attempts, that’s a good time to start thinking about pitching elsewhere.

When all else fails: On your final attempt to get an editor to respond, consider including a polite note to let them know you appreciate their time but intend to pitch the article elsewhere if you don’t receive a response in the next few days. If they don’t get back to you by that point, you have your answer.

Good luck!

Best,
The Freelance Dude

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Follow @nmeunier on Twitter for more writing advice, game industry commentary, and freelance shenanigans. Also, keep an eye out for his upcoming book Up Up Down Down Left WRITE: The Freelance Guide to Video Game Journalism launching this August! You can also follow @gamejournoguide on Twitter to stay up-to-date on that.

Have a writing, freelancing, or game journalism related question you’d like answered? No problem! Hop on over here for details on how to submit it to The Freelance Dude!

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