Multiple Submissions Etiquette

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Q: Is it proper to send out the same article to multiple publishers at the same time? What happens if several magazines accept the article?—Casey Magan

A: Hmm, did you send this same question to other magazines, too?

Sending out the same query to separate publications (simultaneous submissions) gives you more opportunities to get published, but it can also ruin your chances with editors if they know it’s been submitted elsewhere—especially to a competitor­—unless they accept simultaneous submissions.

With multiple acceptance, it’s easy to burn bridges. As you sign a contract, you’ll find most publishers want first serial rights, or the right to publish the article for the first time in any periodical. If an editor puts in the time to read and accept your submission, she won’t be happy to find out that you’ve sold it to another publication.

If you want to submit the same idea to multiple sources, the best approach is to mention it in your cover letter so the editor knows up front. If it’s too late for that, the ethical thing to do is accept the first offer you receive and politely decline the others.

To avoid these dilemmas in the first place, refine the query/article specifically to fit the needs of each individual magazine. The theme of each magazine is different. The audience is different. By angling the same idea a little differently for each publication, you’re less likely to run into such problems.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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