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If you’re a writer, trying to get your stories published involves a good deal of waiting around to hear back from people. Often, that long wait ends in disappointment and rejection (my personal record wait for a response is 477 days), if you get a reply at all. 

Of course, most editors have a much faster turnaround, but even so, a lot of folks are tempted to beat the system by sending their work to several editors at the same time, regardless of what it might say in the submission guidelines.

Is that a good idea? Personally, I totally understand the frustration of waiting for a train that might never arrive, but in most cases, unless it specifically says it’s okay in that publication’s guidelines, I don’t think we should do it. 

Here’s why:

What if your writing and/or story idea stinks? – sorry, I seem to be channeling my old gran this morning. 

What if your writing and/or story idea isn’t yet at a standard where it has a good chance of finding a home? 
One of the rejections you get might offer some constructive feedback. You take the advice on board, improve the work, and prepare to send it elsewhere…but you can’t, because all those other places on your list already turned it down.  

What if your writing and/or story is exactly what several publications are looking for?
Sure, the idea of two or more editors offering to publish your story sounds great, but the editor(s) who you turn down aren’t going to be happy. 

Unless theirs is a one-person operation, these folks didn’t just glance through your work and decide to purchase. There’s a slush process, which means other people spent time reading your story. They picked it out from a whole lot of others to send to the editor, who then read through all the other recommended stories, deciding which ones might best fit in the next issue. 

I can’t imagine they’d be pleased find out you wasted their time. 

Is the current system perfect? No, but it’s the one we have to work with. These days, publications have their own websites and blogs, so it’s much easier to see where they’re at in the selection process. 

Mind you, if there’s no turnaround time mentioned on the site, I’d be inclined to give them (say) sixty days, then send a gentle reminder. Ten days after that, if they’ve not replied (automatic messages don’t count), I’d cross that particular publication off my list and move on.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. 

How about you?

What's your take on simultaneous submissions?

should writers make simultaneous submissions?

Absolutely! I don't have time to sit around, waiting for editors to let me know they don't want my work.
Only if the submission guidelines allow it.
Something else, which I'll mention in the comments.

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( 51 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 11th, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
I submit to a medium-sized pool of genre publications--generally those that pay at least a modest honorarium and/or have a good rep. As such, I don't simultaneously submit to them, whether allowed in the guidelines or not.

Lit mags, though? There are thousands out there, and some of them respond in 6-12 months, not the lightning-fast turnarounds you get at Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, etc. I submit to all appropriate markets in a particular "tier" (defined by me based on money, visibility or reputation) simultaneously if they allow it. If they don't allow simsubs and I really want to get into that mag, I send it to them alone.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:51 am (UTC)
It must be tough running a magazine, but I really don't see how some of them can justify their long turnaround times. If nothing else, it's counter-productive, unless they think of themselves in the same way as the restaurants who are proud of their 6-month waiting list for reservations.
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Sep. 11th, 2010 01:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 11th, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:33 am (UTC)
I think you make good points about the reasons not to simultaneously submit and I've never done so with any short story I've sent off.

I also understand the time, work, and effort that goes into selecting a short story for a particular market and the fact that magazines do not have the same budgets as large publishers and cannot bid on the stories they want to accept.

However, once you get into the six months or longer range I wish more markets would allow for simultaneous subs.

The longest I've waited for a response was something like 247 days. The only good thing about long waits is you can completely let go of the story and focus on something else.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:52 am (UTC)
Thanks, Aaron.

Personally, I think six months is too long to have wait for a decision, but I guess we have to put up with it.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)
I try not to simsub, but sometimes publications take so long (currently I've had something out for 452 days and counting) that I feel my contract of trust with the magazine is broken. I expect them to reply within 3-4 months. Their website tells me so. But if submission time goes significantly over that without a peep from the magazine, I WILL simsub, allowed or not. Incidentally, the 452-day submission does allow simsubs. At the moment, I don't have the story out on a second sub.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:53 am (UTC)
452 days? Another few weeks and you'll beat my best (or should that be worst?) :)
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 11th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2010 12:30 pm (UTC)
I've only done it a few times - generally I tend to avoid it. Got a story shortlisted recently that was out on submission elsewhere but it didn't win a prize, thankfully, because I'd prefer it were published in the other place and I didn't have to withdraw it.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
That might have been disappointing :)
Sep. 11th, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC)
In the days (not so long ago for some of us)
when you had to print your typescript
and put it in an envelope with a return envelope
and pay postage both ways,
simultaneous submissions were terribly expensive,
and only the truly desparate resorted to it.
And what did they do with the 50 or more copies that came back???

As I understand it,
the thing to do if a second place accepts something
that's already been accepted elsewhere,
you send an apology explaining that since you hadn't heard from them in
(whatever length of time it was)
you had assumed they had not accepted it.
And offer to send them something else immediately...

Even today, with internet submissions that cost nothing,
I don't submit simultaneously,
but mostly because it's difficult to keep track of what's where...
Sep. 11th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
I don't know how Gustavo (bondo_ba)keeps track of all his submissions.
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Sep. 11th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
Under 2 years would be nice :)
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Sep. 11th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean, Dylan. Sadly, there some publishers and agents who have a thing or two to learn about basic manners.
Sep. 11th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
I would say no, absolutely not. Even if one of the guidelines allows it, you need tto make sure that both do, and then you have the risk of losing track. The trick to avoid getting sucked into committing this mistake is not to wait, but to write another story.

I get responses about once or twice (often more) a week, simply because I have lots of stories out there. That keeps me from getting overanxious at the fact that one market has held onto a tale for too long.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 11th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 11th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 11th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 12th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
I agree. Better to have a bunch of different stories /poems out to different places.
Sep. 11th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
When I had a story accepted by two magazines at the same time and I had to choose which editor to offend I swore never again, largely because both editors were (and remain) splendid people.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)
That must have been awkward.
Sep. 11th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
I've done it at least twice. Once by accident, because of of a mistake in my record-keeping. In the other case, an anthology opportunity opened up (Sword & Sorceress XXI), so I e-mailed the first editor to explain the situation and ask whether she'd be okay with me also submitting the story there. She said yes, S&S accepted it, and life was good.

I've heard people argue that it's fine to simsub because the odds are on your side. This argument usually reveals that the ones arguing don't understand how publishing works.

The odds of a bad story being accepted are pretty much zero, so if you want to submit your crap, you're probably safe to simsub.

But the odds of a good story being accepted are much higher, meaning the odds of multiple editors accepting it -- and you being in a position of having to potentially piss off at least one of those editors -- also increase.

I don't think it's worth it. When I was submitting, I always targeted the good, quick-responding markets first. If I decided to submit to a slower market, I did so *knowing* the response times. By submitting to them, I was accepting that it would be a while before I heard anything. If I'm not okay with waiting, I figure I shouldn't submit to them.
Sep. 11th, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
so if you want to submit your crap, you're probably safe to simsub.

Lol, looks like I'm not the only one channeling my old gran today :)
Sep. 11th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
When I first started writing over twelve years ago I used to do it. Now I have enough stories I can send them all out to different markets and nary a twain will meet. Today if I didn't have all these stories I probably wouldn't sub sim, though.

I want writers empowered. Period. I view the 'no sim sub' as a form of control over writers. I long for the day when we can write our stories and editors and publishers come to US with hat in hand.

I realize that's goofy fantasy, though, haha, and unworkable on a lot of levels. But I can dream. :P

Quite frankly, now that we've (mostly) moved out of the dead tree submission phase, most online mags have gotten back to me in a prompt fashion. There are some that hold onto stories for more than a year, but their names and behavior tend to get out pretty fast, thanks to the Internet. TBH, if they treat you that bad in the submission process there's no reason to suspect later dealings with them will be any better. I tend to avoid them.

Bottom line, you don't need to do it nowadays, and anyway you should be writing your next story and not obsessing over what's happening to the submission. In this profession it's always about "what are you doing now." So, submit, and start your new story. Pretty soon you'll be too busy to worry about that sub that's a few weeks late. :)

Sep. 11th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
"I long for the day when we can write our stories and editors and publishers come to US with hat in hand. I realize that's goofy fantasy, though, haha, and unworkable on a lot of levels."

Not at all. A few weeks back, I got an e-mail from an editor asking to publish a reprint of one of my stories. A month prior to that, another editor asked if I'd write something for an anthology he's doing.

It's pretty much unworkable when you're just starting out. However, once you've "proven yourself," so to speak, it becomes not only workable but SOP for a number of authors. (I know a lot of folks who get far more invitations than I do.)
(no subject) - kmarkhoover - Sep. 11th, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 12th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 11th, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)
I don't write many short stories, so I haven't really come up against this problem much. I did have a novella that took more than a year to hear back on, but quite frankly, the markets for that length are so small, I had nowhere else to send it. And they apologized in the personal and flattering rejection letter for taking so long to reply.

I do think that paying markets are limited enough that it's crazy to risk burning one by simultaneously submitting when the guidelines say not to. But then it's easy for me to say that when I'm not really in the market much.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
The general opinion seems to be that we should have enough stories out on submission that we're not fretting over response times.
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(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 11th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 12th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
I like to be able to go over something after it is rejected - so I don't normaly submit to more then one place at a time - I think that I have done it one or two times.

I think if you do a SimSub - if it gets accepted you should write a withdraw letter to the other markets that maybe concidering it.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Absolutely, otherwise the spurned editor will feel quite peeved, and rightly so.
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