In the magazine world, it is common to simultaneously submit your query to a number of different magazines. Each publication is different and sometimes an editor will want a 500 word article while others will request a 1500 word article. As the writer, you can create two distinct articles to meet these needs.
In the world of books, simultaneous or multiple submissions are also common. Literary agents and editors are notoriously slow to respond to submissions because of the high volume. I often tell people that being an acquisitions editor is like trying to drink water from a fire hose. I read a high volume of material every day yet I’m actively looking for great writing to publish. The practice of multiple submissions is accepted throughout the publishing world.
So what multiple submissions do I want you to stop?
An author sent me his manuscript last week and then almost immediately sent another email saying to delete that one and he was sending the right manuscript. A few hours later, this same author sent another email saying that he wasn’t going to get it done today but it was coming tomorrow. Then that day, he wrote saying it would be the next day. Yes the chain went on until he sent and resent his submission several times. I want you to stop these types of multiple submissions. In fact, an author should never send such a submission in the first place. It makes a poor impression on the editor and you have no regard for how that submission comes across to the editor or agent.
Here’s the reality: we receive hundreds of emails in a single day. The back and forth actions—send and withdraw from an author do not help you feel good about the submission in the first place.
Another type of multiple submission that I receive are half-baked ideas from authors. They write asking me to look over their proposal or idea to see if they are on the right track. Maybe these authors have corresponded with me or met me at a writers conference and feel like I’m approachable (something I want and encourage). Yet I do not run a critique service or editing service. I’m actively looking for great manuscripts to publish. I want to get so excited about your material that I promote it to my colleagues and get you a book contract from a New York publishing house. I can’t do this authentically if you have sent your material on multiple occasions.
A third type of multiple submission is what I call the “multiple download.” Rather than send a query, this author put all of his files to submit into PDF, which end up being larger than document files. Then he “zipped” them into three different emails and submitted them 1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3. Talk about a time suck to simply download and read them! Guess what type of impression this author made about his submission?
Remember the key saying when it comes to submissions and approaching literary agents or acquisitions editors: you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Yes I underlined one chance in that last sentence.
Many authors presume they will be the exception to the rule (choose whatever rule you want to choose). I’ve learned that most of us will need to carefully follow the different rules before we ever get a chance to be one of the few exceptions.
Instead of assuming your submission will be the exception, I encourage you to polish your proposal with a critique group or a professional editor—before you send it to an agent or editor. You want your submission to have the best possible chance of acceptance. At Morgan James Publishing, we receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books (less than three percent of the submissions).
I want to encourage you to submit your material. Many authors fail because they do not persist to find the right editor or the right agent or the right publishing house. They get rejected or have self-doubts so they never submit their material.
Opportunity is all around us and as a proactive writer, you have to be on the move to locate the right connection. Just take a slight pause before you fire off that multiple submission to the same editor. It will make a lasting impression—and not the type of impression you want to make on a publishing professional.
W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Irvine, California. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. To help writers, he has created 12-lesson online course called Write A Book Proposal. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com.
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