Sunday, July 12, 2009

Simultaneous Submissions

This subject has come up a lot recently with several of my publishers, so I thought I'd give new writers a heads up.

Simultaneous submissions means that you submit (send) your story to more than one publisher at the same time.

Publishers hate this. If they invest the time to read your story and prepare to put it into their publication schedule or anthology, they don't like to find out later that you sold it somewhere else. they get grumpy about it, and probably won't bother to read anything else you submit to them. Ever.

Writers feel that they increase their chances of selling a piece, and selling it faster, if they submit to all potential markets at the same time. Some publishers are notoriously slow about responding, and some don't bother responding at all if they're not interested, which leaves the writer wondering for months on end if it's safe to send the story out to someone else. That's pure rudeness on the publisher's part, and the industry is rife with it.

So what is a writer to do?

You might be chomping at the bit to get your story published, but unless you write highly topical books, your words aren't going to go stale. So have some patience, and some class. Unless a call for submissions specifically states that simultaneous submissions are okay, assume they aren't. Send your story to your dream publisher* first. If they say they'll be back to you in four weeks, and it's been five, send a very respectful letter** asking if they received your submission and when you can expect to hear back from them. They will probably admit that they passed. At that point, send it to your second choice. If they don't respond to the polite note, assume rejection and move on. If they do suddenly say yes later, you covered your ass with the note and they don't have the right to get huffy about you sending out to a different publisher. I'd caution you against working with anyone who shows such poor communication skills though - especially someone in the media business.

So to recap - submit to only one publisher at a time, no matter how tempting it is to send to more than one. Simultaneous submissions = bad reputation.

* I'll talk about dream publishers in my next blog.
** respectful letters do not include demands, threats, diva attitude, or anything else that will warn a publisher that you're a nitwit who will be a pain in the ass to work with. Strangely enough, in most cases, diva attitude is in inverse relationship to talent.


Helen said...

One way to avoid the issue of having to wait while publishers respond, and to resist the urge to submit a story to several publishers at once, is to keep writing so you have lots of stories to submit to different publishers. Having five stories out to five publishers beats the pants off of having one story out to one publisher, and is much better than having one story out to five publishers. Want to submit to more publishers? Write more stories! Yeah, it's a lot of work, but much better for a writer's career.

Vincent Diamond said...

As a writer, I confess to sometimes sim-subbing but only to notoriously long-assed and well-known hurry up and wait markets like Zoetrope All Story and other litfic magazines. I mean, really, who has a year to hear back from a magazine?

Most genre publishers (romance, mystery, etc.) have a pretty good track record of reasonably quick replies. Reasonably quick may vary from writer to writer but for me within 4 months or so is viable unless the call for subs gives a specific time frame. For markets that don't offer a time frame, you can usually gauge a no based on the deadline and pub date. But, usually a polite email gets an answer.

As an editor on the pub side of things, I can certainly understand why writers do this, but with 4-6 week turnaround times for answers, I'm not sure I see the rush and urgency, especially for a novel-length work. Yes, it was work to write, but it's also work and effort on the publisher's part to review it.

Either scenario, a polite email does wonders for the communications process. :)

Kathleen Bradean said...

Vincent - I'm in complete agreement about the ridiculous wait time on the literary magazines, and I agree that people should be able to wait four months for a reply. Somewhere between the two, the difference between long enough and ridiculous gets a bit fuzzy.

It takes time to write a novel. Why wouldn't it take time to go through the submission process?

D. L. King said...

I agree with everyone here. Yes, the more you write, the more you can have out on submission at any given time!

I haven't submitted to the literary magazines but I really hate publishers who hold on to short stories for a year. I don't care what anyone says, that's completely unnecessary. I did wait over two years (and a week) to get the final word on my first novel, but that's another story. (A story, by the way, that will be told on the LL blog eventually.)

Short stories, in my opinion, are another matter. If you get a time frame from the editor/publisher, wait that long and a little longer (To me, a little longer is more like a month, than a week.). I can tell you, however, from the editor side of things, even though I do my utmost to get back to everyone by the promised deadline, things can get away from me. Sometimes those things are out of my control, but sometimes they really are my fault. Either way, I'm always embarrassed when I go over deadline and get a query from a writer on his/her submission. But I send a letter right back to them apologizing and giving them an updated time frame.

I hate it when an editor doesn't send out a rejection or ignores my query about a submission. I know how busy people can be, but really, it's simple good manners.

On the other hand, it's simple manners not to simultaneously submit. Helen's got it right--write more!