By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
Last week I was speaking with a novelist about her book. Toward the end of the conversation, she told me that she had simultaneously submitted her novel to another publisher. I thanked her for letting me know. While publishing is part of the communication business, often the communication is non-existent or takes months.
I explained to this author that it's fine to simultaneously submit to different publishers. If you are going to simultaneously submit, it's expected you will include this information in your proposal or query letter. It can be a simple statement: “This submission is simultaneous.” Simultaneous submissions are common in the magazine world and book publishing—with queries and proposals.
If you submit to multiple places at once, you are responsible to:
1. Keep track of the various places you submitted simultaneously. You will want to do this anyway to gently follow-up with them if you don't hear from them. A gentle follow-up is sending a brief note asking if they received the submission. Email doesn't always get from one place to another so the question is a good one—especially if the literary agent or publisher or magazine received a high number of submissions.
2. When you sell or place the book or magazine article, you are responsible to let everyone else know this submission has been placed. This communication is key and removes the submission from these other places considering it.
Several months ago, an agent that I occasionally work with had placed a book with Morgan James. He simultaneously submitted the project to other places—but did not handle this second step. He approached me because he wanted to accept the second deal and cancel the contract with Morgan James. Such action was improper but eventually we cancelled our contract and allowed the other publishing deal to go forward. I'm not speaking out of school to tell this story because I confronted the agent directly about his mistake and unprofessionalism. The second offer should have never been presented to his author--but he did. He also still wanted to cancel and move to the other publisher. We spoke with the author before the cancellation. This author believed this second publisher was going to do 100% of the marketing for his book (a fantasy for any publisher).
Also the agent through his unprofessional actions jumped on a blacklist within our publishing house. Yes such a list exists within publishers and magazines. These people have violated the expected standards and practices. If this agent ever approaches me or anyone else at the publisher, he will get a rapid but professional rejection letter. We wasted valuable time and resources with such unprofessional actions and it will not be forgotten.
Unfortunately because of the volume of submissions, a number of publishing houses do not respond. That's a key reason why you want to establish personal relationships with as many editors and literary agents. Then when you submit something to them, in the first paragraph, you remind the editor or agent of your connection to them (where you met, at which conference, etc.). This addition to your submission will help you get much more traction than random unsolicited submissions.
I hope this article about submission expectations has been helpful. Each side of the process has expectations. If you have other experiences with submissions or something I've left out, let me know in the comments below.