Writing on spec

Why I’ve decided to stop writing on-spec for magazines

In the last two months, I’ve written two on-spec articles for two different publications and both were rejected.

Writing on spec

The rejections didn’t hurt as much as the fact that I had put in a fair bit of time writing both pieces (a personal story and a feature article with experts). I’d carefully studied both publications, ensuring I didn’t write what was already written in past issues and wrote to their guidelines.

Now there could be a number of reasons why the stories were turned down:

  1. The articles weren’t suitable for the publications at the time.
  2. The editor didn’t want to accept the articles because he or she had run similar articles in the past even though I was assured that they would still accept it if there was a fresh angle to the story.
  3. One of the 1,000,000 reasons why stories are turned down by editors.

I was often told in my writing courses that an editor would ask a writer to write on spec if he/she doesn’t know the writer and wanted to know if they can deliver to their guidelines. Fair enough, but being published in a magazine which requires this is not for me (and I’ve known this for some time) and as a writer I prefer to focus my limited time and resources on where I’ll receive maximum benefit.

I made a professional decision as a freelance writer/copywriter to write an article only if my pitch was accepted and commissioned rather than writing an article which may never see the light of day.

It comes down to purely business reasons:

  1. I prefer a firm commission which means I will get paid once I submit my article
  2. If I’ve been published many times over in the last few years then I can be relied upon to deliver
  3. It’s a waste of my time to research and write an article which can be turned down due to a million reasons some of which may be out of my control despite having delivered my best work.
  4. I’d rather put that time into finding a client who loves my work so I can make a steady income or pitching ideas to editors who I have worked with in the past who love my work.
  5. I don’t want to waste time trying to place already written articles in other publications when I could be coming up with better ideas instead to pitch to magazines.
  6. It was my third try with one magazine and I’d vowed that if it didn’t happen despite my best efforts that I was going to leave it. So now I’ve struck off both these names of my publishing bucket list!

So from this month on, one of my rules is NEVER to write on-spec just for a byline in a known or even local magazine. It’s simply not worth the angst and my time would be better spent elsewhere.

You might prefer to write on-spec or not. Tell me why you would or wouldn’t write on spec for a magazine as a freelance writer.