"No Simultaneous Submissions, Please"

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Thread: "No Simultaneous Submissions, Please"

  1. #1

    "No Simultaneous Submissions, Please"

    In today's short fiction world, many publications are expressing they will not accept simultaneous submissions. Their reasoning is that it takes their time and resources to review and place submissions, and to do so only to discover the author has sold the story elsewhere is both frustrating and problematic, sometimes resulting in a loss of revenue.

    So, many state in their submission guidelines that simultaneous submissions are NOT allowed.

    The problem is, many of these publications have a response time of three months or longer. For many writers, that would mean waiting on a response from one publication for an entire season, while they could be shopping their story around to other markets in the meantime.

    While researching the topic, I discovered one author who advices going against Simultaneous Submission etiquette. He recommends simultaneously submitting, even if the publications you are submitting to express in no uncertain terms that they do not accept simultaneous submissions:

    I wrote fiction, and sent it off to literary magazines. LOTS of literary magazines. I totally ignored warnings against simultaneous submissions; unless a publisher has paid you money, they have no right to tell you what to do with your work, and youíll die of old age waiting for some of those journals. When I say I sent to lots of journals, I mean I sent each story out to at least ten editors.
    - Michael Poore, on how he broke into the publishing world and landed an agent

    What do you think about this subject?

    Should a writer have the right to shop their story around at their own discretion?

    Should a publication have the right to maintain sole submission rights of a writer's work?

  2. #2
    WF Veteran Gavrushka's Avatar
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    I am not sure... I feel a little dizzy as I can see both perspectives. - I've only ever submitted to two agents (I'm in the UK) and neither had such restrictions.

    I would imagine that only the most confident of authors would send to the no-simultaneous submissions agents, if they are playing by the rules...

    ...and the other thing to bear in mind, I assume the rules only apply to speculative sends- If you've already been published, you will have a specific person to send your work to, with very little lead time.

    There are a lot more unpublished authors than there are active agents, and I am sure that the 'average' standard of a submission is well below merit-publication standard. Some agents, in despair of the dross they have to read, may just be trying hard to pre-filter it.

    On a purely selfish basis then, Hell yes, I think we should be able to send our words to any agent we feel like.

    *Edit* - I am new to short stories, and I think I am collating them myself and publishing them as one...

    ...Perhaps, as a site, the better authors could combine and create there own e-zine... - I was delighted by how much talent there is here, but even more so by the expertise of many of those offering advice.
    Last edited by Gavrushka; October 10th, 2013 at 03:53 PM. Reason: Relevance of my reply to short fiction

  3. #3
    WF Veteran Bilston Blue's Avatar
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    Nov 2010
    Bilston, the Black Country, in the heart of England
    Kyle, I think you've answered your own question with the second clause of the section you highlighted. Who the hell has any right to tell me where I can and can't submit something on which I've grafted long hours through drafts and redrafts and edits, etc? When it comes to subbing, we're (i.e., we, the writers) done with the art and its down to business, which means I'm trying to sell something (even if it's a non-paying market). I may be going against all etiquette with this, but business is business and I'm not prepared to wait however many months before finding out if I'm "allowed" to send my story elsewhere.
    "I think a life is a plot. It's probably the elementary plot. I came across a quotation of Patrick White, the Australian writer, just about the time I needed it. He said he never bothers with plot. He just writes about life 'limping along toward death.' That made me feel much better, to keep this in my mind."

    Carol Shields.

  4. #4
    As someone who hasn't been published, I'd likely ignore this request and say; IF I am so lucky as so get accepted by two, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. If I did get in somewhere without hearing from a second, I'd immediately send an email withdrawing my work from the other. You don't need an explanation to do that if they haven't sent you an acceptance letter yet. You could, or you could just apologize and say you're withdrawing it at this time and that's that.

    But honestly, depending on how quickly I'm pumping out stories I really don't have time to wait for an email most likely telling me "not at this time."

    It's vaguely like college sports. For each sport there's a designated "practice" date where you get your coach and have official practices for the season. But almost every team practices before this, usually run by captains and kept hush-hush. Universities and NCAA will tell you to wait for the official date- but it's a competitive world out there and getting an extra two weeks to condition can seriously improve your chances. Likewise, not everyone can afford to wait almost a year before making a fifth submission of a piece.

    Remember, there are two horses in this race: yours and the publishing house. They don't want to lose. You shouldn't be too willing to place second just so they can parade with the roses. Value their time, but also your own.

    As someone with credibility and esteem in the publishing world, I would not submit simultaneously. If I was lucky enough to be an established writer getting some renown in her field, I'd choose a submission site and see how it goes. Likely I'd be pulled out (unless I lied abut who I was). JK Rowling could write an awful short story, but there's a 90% chance that she wouldn't sit in the slush pile. I value their time and mine, so I wouldn't go around pulling strings.

    So yeah, you should respect both yourself and them always, but how it's done depends on the stage (and perhaps seriousness) of your career.

  5. #5
    I would say that if you're willing to burn bridges, shoot yourself in the foot, or otherwise decrease your future chances of publication through that publisher, go ahead and ignore their guidelines. When Publisher A (who would have paid you more/is more prestigious) tenders an offer, and you inform them that Publisher B has already accepted the story, don't plan on submitting to Publisher A again.

    If you don't want to wait, don't submit to those publishers who say no simsubs. Once you've built your reputation, you most likely won't be waiting long for a response anyway.
    Has left the building.

  6. #6
    If I did submit a piece simultaneously when asked not to (and then had to withdraw it later on) I'd fully expect to never have anything published by that market.

    If the wait time is too long for you, or if you don't want to commit your piece exclusively to a particular market.... maybe don't submit there? There are plenty of places that do accept simultaneous submissions. I'm sure you could get away with it just fine, but messing around editors who might be interested in your work just seems slightly off to me.

  7. #7
    I'm still on the fence about this one, and tonight I plan to consider submission to several Pro and Semi-Pro markets. . .

    On the one hand, I agree that breaking submission guidelines and, possibly, burning bridges with certain editors and publications seems like an amateur mistake.

    On the other hand, this is a business, and we (the writers) are the talent. It's first come first serve when it comes to acquiring new talent. We create the product. They are the buyers. The publications should not get to monopolize my product (and my time) so that they can have more weeks/months to "think about it."

    It's easy for some publications to sit on submissions. But they are not the ones that need sales to help pay the bills, whereas many writers do.

    Right now, I'm 50/50 on it. Ignoring the "no simultaneous submission" publications would be like a huge dagger to the back, as the majority (close to 80% of the ones that fit my genre, length, and pay scale) state such restrictions. Hmm. . .

  8. #8
    You have the right to submit, they have the right to deny. It's called commerce.

  9. #9
    The following is from a pro-paying No SimSub market, regarding complaints about No SimSubs:

    How you might think our process works

    I gather that a lot of authors think that something like this happens after they submit a story to us:

    Story sits around in limbo for four to eight weeks. Editor then looks at story for five minutes, decides not to buy it, and instantly sends rejection.

    If our process worked like that, then you could withdraw the story at any time up to five minutes before we send the rejection, and it wouldn't cost anyone any significant amount of time. (Some annoyance, sure, but not much actual time.)

    But it doesn't work that way at all.

    How our process really works

    Look at the submission-consideration process from our point of view:

    You send us a story that's under consideration elsewhere.

    It likely sits in our First Reader queue for a week or two. Then one of our First Readers reads it, and they pass it along to us editors. It sits in our queue for another week or two until one of us reads it and passes it along to the other two editors. We read it, we consider it, we re-read it, we talk about it in our weekly phone meetings, we weigh it against other stories. We finally decide whether we want to buy it. After we make that decision, it often takes us up to a couple more weeks to send the acceptance or rejection, for a variety of reasons.

    It's now probably about six weeks after you submitted. Let's say we liked your story enough to buy it. We send you an acceptance letteró

    And you tell us, "Oh, sorry, I actually sold that story somewhere else yesterday."

    We've just wasted a lot of time and energy trying to decide on a story that it turns out isn't available for us to buy.

    The key point here is that you have no way of knowing, at any given time, how much time we've spent on your story. So even if you don't wait to hear back from us, even if you withdraw your story from us as soon as the other venue accepts it, chances are still good that we've wasted time on your story.

    And the next time we see a submission from you, we'll notice the note in our database that says "This author's last story was a simsub; we wasted a lot of time considering it." And we'll think: Why should we spend any time on this new story, after what happened last time?

    Bear in mind that we're getting nearly 500 stories a month, and that we're unpaid volunteers. We don't have much time. We're happy to spend some of our time on stories we likeóbut if we spend a bunch of time on your story and then it turns out that time was wasted, it makes us angry.

    What if the story sells?

    I think a lot of authors send out simsubs without thinking about what happens if the story sells; they're (perhaps subconsciously) assuming that all the venues will reject the story. But stories do sell, and once that happens, the whole simsub house of cards comes tumbling down.

    For example, think about what you'll do if you get three acceptance letters on the same day. Do you really want to turn down two acceptances, thereby making it unlikely that those venues will ever spend much time considering your work again?

    But what about the author's time?

    At this stage of the discussion/argument, several authors have said: That's all very well, but what about me? It's a waste of my time to sit around waiting for a response, when I could be showing the story to ten other venues at once!

    To which my answer is: That's true, and it's too bad, but that's the way most of the field works.

    Sorry, that's the mean answer. Fortunately, there's also a much nicer answer:

    There's an easy way for you to work around this problem: write ten more stories, and submit them all to different venues. That way you've got something under consideration at any given venue at any given time, and nobody's wasting any time.

    If you don't have enough stories to do that with, and you don't have time to write any more stories, then there's another answer: be patient. Sometimes stories take a long time to sell; trying to shortcut the process usually backfires. And if you find yourself getting impatient and wanting to simsub, then take the time you would've taken to submit elsewhere and instead spend it working on another story.


    The core point of this entry is that we don't consider simultaneous subs. Even if you don't find the above explanation convincing, you're not going to get us to change our minds. It has been our firm policy for ten years. Arguing with us isn't going to help, even if you do it politely, and especially if you do it rudely (as most authors do over this issue). Ignoring our rule and sending us simsubs is really not going to help, especially if you find yourself having to withdraw a story from us because you've sold it elsewhere.

    In short:

    Don't send us simsubs.

  10. #10
    And here's a counterpoint:

    Why You Should Ignore Those No Simultaneous Submission Pleas

    When you're looking at submission guidelines at literary journals and literary agencies, a big thing used to be to ask for "No simultaneous submissions allowed." This meant that you were supposed to send in your work to only one magazine or agency at a time, wait six months to a year for a response, most likely get rejected, and then move onto the next magazine. In other words, you might get published by the time you're eighty.

    In today's publishing world, fewer and fewer literary journals are asking for no simultaneous submissions, mostly because they realize that writers don't follow that guideline even when they do ask for it. The reason being is that getting accepted at two magazines or agencies at the same time rarely happens, and when it does, well, then the author just has to make the choice. As long as you're polite about it and don't break any contracts you've signed, most people are understanding.

    For the journals that still ask for no simultaneous submissions, ignore it. They're behind the times, and while you're rolling the dice and could make them very angry if they accept your work and it's been selected for another magazine, oh, well. At least you're still getting published and somebody else likes you. No single editor can ruin your writing career, no matter what they tell you in angry e-mails.

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