Let’s talk about one of my favorite writerly topics: simultaneous submissions. A simultaneous submission (sim-sub, for short) is when you send one story to multiple markets to increase the chance you’ll put the story in front of an editor who will publish it. As with all the subjects I’ve covered in the submission protocol series, you should check the submission guidelines when you’re considering sending out simultaneous submissions. In the case of sim-subs, most markets take a pretty unambiguous stance of “yes, we accept them” or “no, we don’t.” If a publication does not accept simultaneous submissions, I don’t send them one. My reason for this is simple: I don’t want to end up in a situation, unlikely as it may be, where I sell a story to two publishers, one or both of which does not accept sim-subs. That’s just a pickle I’d rather avoid.
You’ll notice I’m not taking the usual hardline approach here as I often do with submission guidelines. That’s because sim-subs can be a hot-button subject, and I know some authors do send sim-subs to publishers that don’t accept them. Why would an author do that? Well, for starters, some authors, myself included, view simultaneous submissions as a really good way to increase a story’s chance at publication. The more editors that are looking at it, the more likely it is to be published. When you send a story to a publisher that doesn’t accept sim-subs, the story is out of circulation while they make a decision. If a publisher can turn submissions in a reasonable amount of time, that’s not a big deal. Some publishers, however, may take quite a while to make a decision (120 days or more in some cases), and some of these publishers do not accept sim-subs. Because of these long turn times, an author might sim-sub these publishers anyway, taking the risk the no-sim-sub publisher will reject the story or accept the story first, and they’ll avoid the pickle I described earlier.
Is an author wrong for doing that? Tough call. I mean, I get it. When I look at a publisher’s guidelines and see no sim-subs and “please do not query until 180 days have passed,” it gives me pause, and I might not submit to that publisher if I think I can sim-sub the story to two or three good markets rather than just the one. That said, I also understand the other side of the coin and why a publisher might want to avoid simultaneous submissions. Having been a magazine editor for years, I know firsthand that putting a publication together is a pain in the ass. It’s a never-ending race against the clock to get the issue out on time, and the last thing you want to do is waste that precious time reading and reviewing an article/story the author might pull out from under you before you can make a final decision. How do you keep this from happening? You don’t allow sim-subs. Admittedly, this line of reasoning is easier for an author to swallow if a publisher can turn a story in a reasonable amount of time. What’s reasonable? Depends on the market, really. Longer turn times, for example, are more common in the literary genre, or so I’m told by friends who write that type of fiction. For the genre market, I think sixty days is reasonable, and the vast majority of publications I submit to have turn times in that range and/or allow sim-subs.
What are your thoughts on simultaneous submissions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.