Sim-Sub Stats: Response Times

Hey, let’s talk about simultaneous submissions again. Sim-subs are always a hot topic in writerly circles, but let’s start with a quick definition if you’re new to the ol’ submission game. A simultaneous submissions is simply when you send a story to two or more publishers at the same time. If one publishers accepts the story, you immediately send a polite withdrawal notice to the others. Thing is, not all publishers accept sim-subs. There are multiple reasons (some quite valid) as to why a publisher may or may not accept simultaneous submissions, but I’m not going to go into that here. What I want to look at is a general trend among publishers who accepts sim-subs and those who don’t.

First, here’s where I got my data. I ran a search on Duotrope for all science-fiction, fantasy, and horror publishers (because that’s who I submit to) that pay at least semi-professional rates and are currently open to submissions. I omitted contests and anthologies because, being one-offs, they tend to operate by different rules. I also omitted brand new publishers where I don’t have enough information on response times to fit them into my groups. After all that, I ended up with forty publishers.

Of my forty publishers, 14 accept sim-subs and 26 do not. A few of the do nots don’t mention sim-subs at all in their guidelines, but there’s only a couple of those. This is anecdotal, but that 35/65 split feels right to me, but let’s look deeper.

The primary complaint from authors about simultaneous submissions is that markets that do not allow them take too long to respond to submissions and tie up an author’s work for months (an understandable complaint). But how long do both types of publishers really take to respond, on average? Let’s look at the average response time for rejections on publishers that accept and do not accept sim-subs. I’m not looking at acceptances because they almost always take longer for all publishers. Here are those average response times.

  • Accepts Sim-Subs: 52 days
  • No Sim-Subs: 44 days

As you’d expect, publishers that accept sim-subs take longer to respond, but these numbers are skewed by outliers. For example, there’s a market that accepts sim-subs that responds in a single day, and there’s a market that does not that averages eight months. Both are statistical anomalies (along with a few others). If we remove these outliers, what do the numbers look like then?

  • Accepts Sim-Subs: 63 days
  • No Sim-Subs: 28 days

Now that feels about right. In my experience with submissions (600 and counting), most publishers who don’t accept sim-subs respond to submission in under 30 days, and many respond much quicker. Conversely, those that do allow sim-subs take longer, though many respond quicker than the 60 days I have here. To my way of thinking, this is how it should be. If a publisher does not want to accept simultaneous submissions, authors are going to appreciate a quicker response time (this author sure does). If they’re going to take 60 or more days to respond, I think they should consider allowing sim-subs. Remember, these numbers are for rejections. Stories that are being seriously considered are always going to take longer. I’m okay with that, and most publishers will communicate with you when your story is being held for consideration, essentially giving you an opt-out if you wanted.

Every author’s tolerance level is different, but I can live with a 30-day response time for a no sim-sub publisher, and I might submit to one that takes longer if I think my story is an especially good fit. Personally, I tend to avoid publishers that take 120-plus days to respond and do not allow sim-subs unless I have a story I think might be perfect for them. I also do not sim-sub to publishers that do not allow them. I know some authors do, and I’m not here to cast judgment. I get it. Really, I do. I’m just a dyed-in-the-wool rules follower, so that approach doesn’t work for me personally.

Yeah, I’ll admit this is a sample size, but in my experience, these numbers are pretty representative of pro and semi-pro speculative fiction publishers. I think it’s important for authors to do their research on which publishers allow sim-subs and which do not, as it helps you form a good submission strategy. For example, I have a story I recently sim-subbed to three publishers (all allow sim-subs). If it’s rejected by all three, I’ll hit the no sim-sub markets that respond the fastest. If I get no bites there, I’ll work my way down to no sim-sub publishers that take longer to respond. That’s worked for me in the past, and it lets me get my work out to the greatest number of potential publishers in the most efficient way. As always, and especially with something like sim-subs, YMMV.

Thoughts on sim-sub response times? Tell me about it in the comments.

2 Comments on “Sim-Sub Stats: Response Times

  1. I’d say my anecdotal evidence supports your statistical analysis. There are outliers, ie the no sim-sub market that takes forever and a day to respond, but your statistics show there is always outliers in everything.

    • Yeah, I think my numbers are in the ballpark for most genre markets. I’m curious if lit-fic markets are different, but that is definitely not my bailiwick.

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