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Kosher to pitch same freelance idea to multiple outlets?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by GBNF, Apr 30, 2013.

  1. GBNF

    GBNF Active Member

    Would it be considered poor form to pitch a freelance feature story idea - not yet written or reported - to multiple outlets? Or is it customary to wait for a response from one before trying another?
     
  2. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Short answer: Yes.

    Longer response: This is one of the toughest tricks for a freelancer to master. It would be madness to make one pitch then wait for a response before making another elsewhere.

    You've got to tailor your pitch to each publication, of course, and there's always the pesky problem of what to do if more than one pub wants your story. That's a more advanced issue - and a great problem to have.
     
  3. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    Why wouldn't it be OK to pitch to more than one place at a time? If more than one place likes the idea, it can actually give you a little negotiating leverage to make a few extra bucks.

    Just don't actually write the same story for multiple outlets unless all parties know and agree to it.
     
  4. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Because it's considered poor form for a freelancer, especially if you don't have a track record. HejiraHenry's right on this one. If they reject it, you're of course free to pitch it anywhere else. But publishing is a small world and you'll develop a quick reputation if you're always sending your pitches to 5-6 editors at the same time. Nobody likes that.

    That said, I once pitched a non-timely research article to an academic journal, did not hear back for six months, then pitched it to a different publisher. It appeared in that journal three months later, and then six months after that — nearly a year and a half after the original pitch, during which time I had received zero response in any way — I got a nasty e-mail from the first editor chastising me for publishing a story elsewhere that I had pitched to him. I thought that was pretty out of line.

    You don't want my story? Fine. But don't go silent for a year and expect me to just sit on it.
     
  5. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    You really should have at least some work done on a pitch if you're going to send it to places you haven't worked for in the past, though. There's a very good chance your idea will be swiped in the scenario you propose.
     
  6. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Agree. My policy was to be exclusive to whoever said first yes (or paid the most), unless they gave their approval to sell the story to some other publication.
     
  7. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Leverage? Highly doubt it. If you don't have any history with editors at a publication, they'll just bail before engaging in a pricing war -- and especially not for a story that's not complete or even outlined. And most have set budgets that don't have the wiggle room anyway, they can't just find another few hundred bucks for a freelancer if the entire month's tab is two grand.
     
  8. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    I've been freelancing for 25-plus years and make a good chunk of change at it -- enough to get pissed off about paying the self-employment tax every year. Can't say I've ever had an editor say anything about me pitching something to more than one outlet. Just did that a couple months ago (for the record, a few places expressed mild interest, but only one bit).

    And while getting a few more bucks out of a spec story is obviously not common, I've often negotiated higher rates on event stories when more than one place has shown interest -- several times in the past six or seven months alone.
     
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