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TAKE TWO: SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS
Column by Aeryn Rudel
January 19, 2021
In this article, we’ll cover one of the most popular and widely debated topics in writerly circles: the simultaneous submission. I’ll answer the what, how, and when of simultaneous submissions and talk about best-practices. Let’s dive in.
What is a Simultaneous Submission?
A simultaneous submission (or sim-sub) is simply when you send the same story to two or more publishers at the same time. Writers send sim-subs to get their work in front of as many editors as possible in a short span of time, as opposed to waiting weeks and even months for one publisher to respond before sending a story out again. It’s a good strategy and common enough that most publishers address sim-subs in their guidelines, like Dark Matter Magazine does below:
Simultaneous Submissions: Sure! But please notify us or withdraw your story from consideration at Dark Matter if it is accepted elsewhere before we render our own decision. NOTE: Other publishers have their own guidelines about simultaneous submissions, so please read those as well if you intend to submit to both us and them at the same time.
Clearly, the editors at Dark Matter Magazine are A-Okay with sim-subs, and a fair number of publishers are, but notice the second half of that guideline? Some publishers do NOT accept sim-subs and will state that, often emphatically, in their guidelines, like so:
Simultaneous submissions are not permitted.
But what if simultaneous submissions are not mentioned in the guidelines? It’s not common, but it definitely happens. Some writers believe that a market that does not mention sim-subs is tacitly approving them. Others believe the opposite. What I would do (and have done) is send an email to the editor and ask. I’ve received a speedy yea or nay each time.
Sending a Sim-Sub
The first thing you should do before you send a simultaneous submission is make sure both markets accept them. This is the kind of thing that can be easy to overlook in publisher guidelines, so hit CTRL+F and search for the word simultaneous. Works every time and ensures you don’t send a sim-sub to a publisher that forbids them.
If the prospective publishers accept simultaneous submissions, then fire off the story to both of them. One thing to watch for, though, is that some markets may ask you to alert them if your story is a sim-sub. All you need to do there is tack on “This is a simultaneous submission” to the end of your cover letter. In my experience, this admission does not affect your chances of publication one way or the other.
If you are fortunate enough to receive an acceptance from one publisher, you must immediately send a withdrawal letter to the other. It the professional thing to do, and more often than not, the guidelines require it. What should that letter look like? Short and to the point:
I submitted my story [story title] to [publisher] on [date of submission]. The story has been accepted elsewhere for publication. At this time, I would like to withdraw [story title] from consideration.
Just give the publisher the necessary facts so they can remove your story from their submission queue. A publisher that accepts sim-subs won’t have any issue with receiving a letter like this. It comes with the territory. The most you’re likely to receive in reply is a quick thank you and maybe a congratulations.
When should you send simultaneous submissions and why? First, I’ll speak from my own experience. When I send a simultaneous submission, it’s in one of two scenarios (and sometimes both).
- Wide Appeal: If I’ve written a story that looks like it might be a good fit at multiple publishers and those publishers accept sim-subs, I might fire off a simultaneous submission. Generally, I won’t submit to more than three publishers at the same time, mostly because I find the record-keeping a bit arduous.
- Long Wait/Short Wait: If I submit to a publisher who I know is going to take many months to respond to a submission who also accepts sim-subs, I might send the story to one or more publishers (that also accepts them) with a track record for speedy responses. Of course, I still want to make sure all publishers involved are a good fit for my work, but response times definitely factor into my decision to send a simultaneous submission.
Of course, how I do things is not the only way things get done. I know a number of authors who employ what I’d call a shotgun approach, and sim-sub with every story, often to half a dozen publishers at the same time. I see this tactic more among poetry and literary fiction writers, but some genre writers employ it as well. It’s a viable submission method that gets your work in front of a lot of editors, and a solid argument can be made that it increases your chances of acceptance. The downsides are a dearth of publishers that accept sim-subs (especially in genre) and the careful record-keeping that must be employed when sim-subbing to many publishers at once.
Sending simultaneous submissions can be a great way to get your work out there, but before you send one, let’s review.
- Make sure both publishers accept sim-subs before you submit.
- Check the guidelines to see if one or both publishers require you to notify them of the simultaneous submission in the cover letter.
- If you receive an acceptance from one publisher, immediately withdraw the submission from the other.
If you do those three things, it’ll be smooth sim-sub sailing. Good luck and good writing.
Check back next month for more advice on how and where to submit your work or head over to my blog Rejectomancy for oodles of overly analytical articles about the various and sundry parts of writing, submitting, and every author’s favorite subject, rejection.