Should I Write On Spec?

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Hi Angela,

In my 20 years as a writer, I think only once have I written something on speculation (and that was before I accumulated hundreds of clips). I recently approached a new publication with an article idea but the editor would like to see the complete manuscript (1,000 words) first. I’m assuming she means on speculation. I’ve emailed her back asking her if this is what she means. In the meantime, what are your thoughts about writing on spec? Someone advised me to draw up a little “on spec” contract so that the editor has a time limit for making a decision to accept the piece or not and that if they decline, I’m free to pitch it elsewhere.

-S


I detest on-spec contracts…but I hate blind on-spec submissions more. If you have a contract, at least you know the editor is interested (making a commitment to at least review it rather than throwing it in the slush pile) and I think you have a much higher chance of a sale. However, the editor may balk at signing a contract supplied by a writer so you might not have much luck. I think sending a contract to all editors who order on-spec work is a super idea. If you do draw up that contract, I’d love to see a copy.

It seems that some editors are just plain lazy, or that they put writers off by asking for a complete submission instead of a query, just to buy some more time before they have to compose a rejection note. Let’s face it, there are editors out there who really don’t care if they waste your time.

If a publication requires everyone to submit articles (complete manuscripts) on spec, before even sending a query, the writer has to do all the work without even knowing if the editor would have any interest in the article whatsoever. That’s grossly unfair and leads to a huge amount of wasted time for writers.

So, if you get a contract from the editor (either theirs or yours), you’re probably okay. If you’re blindly submitting on spec, I’d recommend spending that time querying publications that accept queries instead.