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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 05:23 pm (UTC)
I follow submissions guidelines, so if a publication doesn't permit simultaneous submissions, I don't submit the piece other places. However, I've had this experience: a place that doesn't accept simultaneous submissions holds a piece well past their stated turnaround time and doesn't respond to queries. Until recently, when this happened, I've done the polite thing and formally withdrawn the piece when I've become tired of waiting. Recently, however, in one case, I decided to submit the piece to places that *did* permit simultaneous submissions without formally withdrawing it from the first place.

My reasoning was this: either way, since the first place hasn't responded, I will eventually have to withdraw the piece. I may as well wait until I've either placed it elsewhere or trunked it.

I'm not entirely comfortable with that course of action, though, and may end up formally withdrawing the piece even without placing it elsewhere or trunking it.

Sep. 11th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. The original publication editor's rudeness puts writers in an embarrassing situation.
Sep. 11th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on this, Jon. If the guidelines say no simultaneous subs, don't do it. But unless an editor/publ house seems like the best possible match for my ms, I'll bump that house down my list and query the ones that DO take simult subs first. Other than that, I figure there's not a lot I can do about the huge wait times other than KEEP WRITING! ;)
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
'Keep writing' is always good advice :)
Sep. 11th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
This is a no brainer.

You follow their submission guidelines to the best of your ability, PERIOD.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
Fair enough :)
Sep. 11th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
All I have to say is OMG I'm tired of the whole process :(

I agree that normally, at least when you're submitting to editors, you should only do one at a time, but you can't wait forever to hear back either. You're general guidelines seem quite good to me.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
...you can't wait forever to hear back either

Very true.
(no subject) - phoenixfirewolf - Sep. 11th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
I submit to one place at a time. After several months I think it's fair to send a mss status update query email.
Sep. 11th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. And if they don't respond the status update, I'd not bother submitting to them again.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 12th, 2010 10:47 am (UTC)
Why is it strange?
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 12th, 2010 10:49 am (UTC)
I know what you mean. There comes a point when a long turnaround time becomes self-defeating for any publication.
Sep. 15th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
Generally, I don't do sim subs. However . . . I subbed a story to a zine. Queried when I didn't hear. Editor said they were holding it, she really liked it, and she'd get back to me. Another query six months later received no response. Later, Ralan.com listed the market as on "indefinite hiatus," but planning to come back.

It's now 792 days since I first subbed to this market.

So when I saw an anthology with a theme this story would fit, and the anthology said they'd take sim subs as long as you told them up front, I sent the story off. Expecting to hear back by the end of next month.

That's my only such case so far.
Sep. 15th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
'It's now 792 days since I first subbed to this market.'

Ouch :(
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