(Yo- my spellchecker isn't working, and I'm running the baby to the doctor, so please ignore any mistakes in this entry!)
As someone who is new to the magazine publishing world, I am soaking up as much information as possible, particularly on querying and marketing myself. Everything I've read so far says it's a no-no to pitch more than one editor the same query at a time. But, my marketing common sense says that the more bait I put out, the more fishies I will catch-- or, the more articles I will ultimately write. Then, last night, I read a book by a freelancer who says it is ok to send your query to several editors at once and take the offer that best suits you. What gives? As someone new, the last thing I want to do is create a bad reputation for myself. But also, as someone new, the first thing I want to do is get as much work as possible. What is your advice?
I've blogged on this before, so definitely search the archives, but I think it's such a valid question that I thought I'd revisit it.
Ask most new freelancers if they multiple-query, and most will tell you "no." They fear the wrath of editors, and they suspect that their idea will be coveted by more than one magazine.
Ask most seasoned freelancers if they multiple-query, and they'll smile slyly and say, "If it serves my purposes, then, sure."
What's the difference? A couple of things.
1) The chances that your query will be snapped up by more than one market are extremely unlikely. Hell, the chances that your query will be snapped up by ONE market aren't that high either. This isn't a cut on your query or writing skills: it's simple odds. For the average freelancer, the ratio of rejected queries to accepted queries is probably at least 25 to 1, and only sky-rockets from there.
2) It makes good business sense. In just about no other industry would you pitch your wares to solely one person...then wait...then wait...then wait some more to see if he or she is interested. I mean, could you imagine if this is how electricians or doctors or whomever earned their livings? (I realize that this isn't entirely analogous b/c a story idea is a unique item, but the general principle applies.)
3) We know to whom we're loyal. Look, I have a crew of editors who get first dibs on story ideas. I'd never dream of sending them an idea and then sending it elsewhere without hearing back. BUT, if you have a new-to-you editor who might take eons to respond and most likely won't respond with a "yes," you owe this editor nothing. Zilch. Nada. If the idea is a good one, then the editor should snap it up asap. And if she lollygags and loiters, her loss - you've sent it elsewhere. In other words, she snoozes, she loses. In this sense, it might serve you well to pitch the idea to one place, wait a week or two, then send it to another. You've given your top choice the chance to respond, and after that, all bets are off. If she later comes back to you with a "yes," and you've sold it to a different magazine, you certainly have a valid excuse that she didn't get back to you in a timely manner.
Here's the thing about multiple-querying. I don't recommend it for every pitch, and it's not a practice that I employ very often, really because as I mentioned above, I primarily work with a specific set of editors whom I'd never want to piss off. But if you're breaking in or if you're trying to boost your clips or if you have a really timely idea or if or if or if...there are countless reasons why sending the same query to a few outlets might serve your purposes. You have to assess what these reasons are and if they're valid. Of course, don't forget, you can always slightly tweak a pitch and send it out to non-competing magazines: this is entirely kosher and will never land you in editorial hot water.
So...do you multiple-query? Yes, no, why not?