View Full Version : Is it okay for an editor to ask...

05-20-2011, 11:15 PM
I pitched an idea to a small magazine. The idea is a spotlight on a guy who has worked at an annual community event every year since the event started -- 22 years ago.

The editor got back. He loves the idea, but the mag is packed this summer. Can I sit on it, and write it next summer, he wants to know.

Really? Wait till next year? What is my obligation here? I think another magazine (or even our local paper) will grab this -- and maybe even pay more. Really, I wish he had said, "If you don't sell this someplace else, I'd love to use it next year." I wonder if this is implied? Seriously, he must understand that if I can find a buyer, I'm going to sell now. I do like this editor -- and his magazine is a grassroots publication that serves our community well.

What would you do? Thanks, larry

05-20-2011, 11:24 PM
they didn't pay you or offer payment or a contract so...

I would say you have every right to sell it elsewhere. If you want to be polite and do your due diligence, let him know that that's a bit long and you're going to pitch it elsewhere (but he might not want it for next year if you say that or he might think it's a pitch not a written story, you don't NEED to write it. or he could say, we get your position but keep us in mind when you get ideas next year. I don't think he'd still want it for next year if you could sell it to anywhere all summer...)

05-20-2011, 11:50 PM
He probably asked you to sit on it because he legitimitately likes the story and simply can't use it right now. The problem is, what do you care? As a freelance, you're a business. You need to go where the money is. Take your story to someone who can use it and sell it.

I often pitch similar ideas to multiple places because I know it'll get rejected more often than not. Magazine and news articles written freelance are like throwing pencils at the ceiling. Toss them all up and see what sticks.

05-21-2011, 02:35 AM
Go for where you can get it placed now; it's hard to say what can happen on either end in a year!

05-21-2011, 05:44 PM
The editor got back. He loves the idea, but the mag is packed this summer. Can I sit on it, and write it next summer, he wants to know.

He's asking if you can sit on it, not telling you that's what you're going to do. Why wouldn't it be okay to ask?

If you write the article and don't sell it elsewhere this year you have an option for next year. Editors remember writers who are cheerful and flexible.

05-21-2011, 08:43 PM
Of course an editor can ask this. Why should he not? It's up to you whether or not you do so. If you think you can sell it elsewhere for more money, nothing is stopping you.

And, of course, it depends on your workload and query flow. Do you need to sell this piece now, or do you have plenty of work to keep you busy? I've held pieces back for longer than a year when it was for an editor I liked, and when I had plenty of other articles to keep me busy.

It's simply up to you, but there's certainly nothing wrong with having an editor ask.

05-22-2011, 01:48 AM
Who knows? The way things change, this editor might not even be at the magazine next year.

05-22-2011, 03:20 AM
Obviously, the editor doesn't want to make any sort of written commitment now, and maybe he can't. Sure he can ask you about one year from today without any guarantee, but that does nothing for you now. So, if you believe that your piece has the potential to be published now, I say go ahead and submit elsewhere to your heart's delight. Meanwhile why not get back to the editor, thank him, and tell him you will be in touch to discuss the project in about 8-9 months. You will then have left open and opened all doors.

05-23-2011, 09:25 AM
Tell him you are grateful for the offer and will consider it, then submit elsewhere. If it sells, let him know that reprint rights will be available (make sure they WILL first, of course). If not, you still have an option open. But, really, if there are other markets that will pay better and probably snap this up... WHY did you go to this one first???

05-23-2011, 07:31 PM
And as pointed out above, a year is a long time to sit on a story. Any number of things could happen ...

1. There could be a major development with the profile subject that could add to the story (the super volunteer retires, wins an award, passes away etc.). If you sit on the current story for a year, you're potentially missing a chance to sell multiple stories on this subject as events unfold.

2. The editor could leave. Happens all the time.

3. The publication could fold (not unusual with small community pubs) or become a nonpaying market.

I might simply thank the editor and let him know that if appropriate, you'll query an updated version of the story next year (ask when he would like to see it).

If you really want to write for this editor, ask if there are any columns or departments where he is needing more great pitches in the meantime and send a few along.

And I wouldn't feel bad about selling the story to another local market, though if you want to cultivate a relationship with this editor, you might give him a heads up that you intend to do so.