Writers, editors and agents have been debating the issue of simultaneous submissions for several decades, and a general consensus has not yet been achieved. The process of simultaneous submissions refers to the act of submitting an article, short story or novel to several publications at once with the hope of receiving a faster positive response.
The tendency is for writers to be in favor of simultaneous submissions. After all, it can take weeks or even months to hear back from an editor or literary agent regarding a submission, and the wait can be horribly frustrating. Submitting simultaneously gives you a better chance of being published and it can also put a dent in the wait.
Editors and agents, however, frown on simultaneous submissions, which means that writers are taking a big risk by doing it at all. Many agents and publishers will refuse to work with you after they discover you’ve been submitting simultaneously, which can mean a black mark in the publishing industry. That said, there are several risks of simultaneous submissions.
Risk 1: Offending Editors or Agents
As mentioned above, simultaneous submissions are usually frowned upon, and you may end up offending an editor even if the publication or publisher claims to accept simultaneous submissions. This is especially true of the magazine industry because editors are working on a deadline. If you pull your piece right before the magazine goes to print, the editors must scrounge to find material to fill that gap.
Risk 2: Accepting a Lower Offer
There are not only risks to the editor of a publication, but also to the writer who sends simultaneous submissions. Let’s say that you’ve written a glowing article about fishing and you send it to five fishing magazines. Magazine Number One accepts the piece and offers you a contract and a rate, and you accept-first come, first serve, right?
Then, three weeks later, you receive a phone call from Magazine Number Four and they want to offer you a better price for your piece, but you’ve already accepted a contract from Magazine Number One. Your simultaneous submissions have now cheated you out of a very good offer.
So what are your options as a writer if you don’t want to accept the risks of simultaneous submissions?
When it comes to articles and short stories written for newspapers or magazines, you can easily circumvent the issue of simultaneous submissions by writing more than one article or short story. Take one idea and break it down into two (or more) similar (but not identical) pieces. You can take them in different directions or add a new spin.
This allows you to submit each piece to different publications without the risks of simultaneous submissions. And if you receive a rejection letter from one publication, you can always submit that piece to a new publication. It’s a win-win situation for both authors and editors.
The risks of simultaneous submissions are different for full-length books. You certainly won’t write three or four versions of your book for different editors or agents, so you’ll just have to wait out the review process. This is why most writers submit full-length manuscripts to agents rather than bothering with editors; the review time is shorter which means you can submit more often in a given period of time.
If you do decide to take the risks of simultaneous submissions, my best advice is to be up-front about it. Include in your query or cover letter that the manuscript is a simultaneous submission. You’ll have far less risk that way than if the editor were to find out on his or her own.