Writing on Spec

Writing on spec or speculation means submitting writing without a contract, usually a complete or finished work. Normally, an editor approves a query letter and you are sent a contract that outlines what is expected and what you’ll get paid. Writing on spec offers no guarantee of payment. After a tremendous amount of effort you submit your article and hope it is accepted. Risky. Yet a few magazines have this policy. What to do?

In two weeks I’ll take a geology field trip into Nevada and I’d like to write about it. My target magazine takes articles only on spec. Although I’ve never written under this arrangement, I’m going to do it this time. I want to write about the topic so much that I am going to take a chance.

To improve my odds I will closely adhere to the look and feel of the magazine’s previously published articles. I’ve also looked up their editorial calendar for the coming year; it details when articles like mine should be submitted. I am going forward. What did Churchill say? “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”

December 11, 2015 update: Success! Rock & Gem (external link) will carry my 2800 word article in their January issue.

December 30, 2015 update: Background on the article (internal link).

April 22, 2016 update: Rock&Gem will publish the second article I wrote for them on spec in May. Look for it at Barnes&Noble.


By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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