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July 2nd, 2004, 09:05 AM
Okay, time to ask a silly question. The phrase, 'No simultaneous submissions' means you can't send your m/s to another publisher at the same time, doesn't it? Or does it mean you can't send two manuscripts to the publisher at the same time?

July 2nd, 2004, 09:11 AM
It refers to the same manuscript going to more than one publisher at a time.

July 2nd, 2004, 09:21 AM
Thanks, that's what I thought. :cool:

James Barclay
July 5th, 2004, 05:51 AM
But on the other hand, if a publisher is then going to turn round and tell you that they won't read your book for six months or more, they have absolutely no right to exclusivity of this nature IMO.

Make sure you know the likely turnaround time of a publisher to whom you are submitting work. You may find that if that time is long, they will understand that you must submit to more than just them or you might go grey before you get published. They understand the nature of the business and the volume of MSS being submitted. A quick phone call should tell you if they actually mind multiple submission or not.


July 5th, 2004, 10:40 AM
Most state in their guidelines if they do not want simultaneous subs, and in a way, they do have the right to do that. They have the right to refuse to consider work that has been subbed elsewhere, which is all they are doing in those cases. You may think it's unfair, but they are the ones calling the shots. And yes, you may be able to sub to another place without telling them ... but it's your reputation on the line if it's discovered.

July 5th, 2004, 12:20 PM
Well yes and no. Strictly speaking, if you are not a published author and you are submitting directly to a book publisher, you don't have a reputation to spoil. :)

Book publishers have to accept simultaneous submissions from agents, because otherwise, the agents would never send them anything. The agents have more than one client, and thus, leverage. You, a lone author, do not. There are very few publishers who will review unagented material and therefore, they are entitled to set the terms at an exclusive submission. They don't want to take the time to review the work, have several editors read it, put together an offer, only to be told they are now bidding against several other publishers.

Because there are so few of them, book publishers who look at unagented material are besieged. Of necessity, they must give unagented works lower priority and it will usually take them from 3 to 9 months, occasionally more, to get around to your manuscript. (Although I distinctly remember when I agented that Del Rey told us even agented material might take six months -- that's how bad it's been at times.) Because the wait is long, they know that most authors are probably going to submit elsewhere, at least after a month or two, usually without telling them. As long as you don't end up with two publishers interested in your work at the same time, you will probably get away with it. The publishers have no time to keep track of exactly what you do. But it is a good idea to check with the publishers about how ironclad their simul sub policy is and what is their average response time. And if you get a real nibble of interest from a publisher, it may be a good idea to pull your submissions from elsewhere. If a publisher has a three month average response time, it might be a good idea to wait the three months out before submitting to other publishers.

If you are an author who has novels already published, but does not have an agent, the rules are a little different. You can agree to an exclusive submission but set a time limit on it, say two months, which most publishers would go along with. Or you may be able to have them waive the simultaneous submission policy altogether since you are a proven commodity. Ordinarially, you would be placed at a higher priority as a going concern. That doesn't mean publishers aren't interested in first timers -- they wouldn't bother to accept unagented ms. if they weren't -- but since the odds of finding something they like from a first timer are longer, and you don't have an agent advocating for you, you're lower in the pile and they are going to put up with fewer demands from you than from someone with a book track record.

The situation for magazine publishers of short fiction and for agents are a little different. It is usually not a good idea to break the simul sub policy of a magazine. Agents will usually accept a time limit on their exclusive commiserate with their standard response period, but do need to be handled carefully and with a clear understanding of what each individual agency does and does not find acceptable.

James Barclay
July 5th, 2004, 03:07 PM
Great post, KatG... telling it like it is. I agree with you, most publishers know that if they are turning round unsolicited MSS in the 6-9 month time bracket that prospective authors will submit elsewhere. It's a risk they'll take on missing something big because they have no choice because of time pressure.

And if you find yourself in the happy position of having two publishers interested in your work, neither will turn you down in a fit of pique because you weren't exclusive... not if they believe you will be a commercial success.


July 6th, 2004, 12:39 PM
Great post, KatG... telling it like it is. I agree with you, most publishers know that if they are turning round unsolicited MSS in the 6-9 month time bracket that prospective authors will submit elsewhere. It's a risk they'll take on missing something big because they have no choice because of time pressure.

And if you find yourself in the happy position of having two publishers interested in your work, neither will turn you down in a fit of pique because you weren't exclusive... not if they believe you will be a commercial success.


Well the publishers probably won't, but agents actually might. I used to tell people to do the following agent drill: send a query letter to as many likely agents as possible; if you get more than one yes response, chose
which agency to give an exclusive submission to for no more than two months; if you don't hear from the agency within the two months, contact them and inquire as to the submission's status; if they still haven't decided, keep the submission there, but remind them their exclusive look is over; send the chapters to the other interested agents, telling them that other agents are seeing the material; go from there.

But....it's gotten a lot more complicated now. Many agencies are taking longer than two or three months to review submissions. Some agencies want query submissions where you send chapters to them with a query letter. Other agencies only want the traditional query letter. A lot of agencies now have very serious exclusive submissions only policies, and won't read the material if they find out they don't have it exclusively. So how to act in a professional manner has gotten trickier, and you do need to know exactly what a particular agencies' policies are, because they are not at all standardized. Most of them don't even have websites.

If an agency can't get back to you with some sort of response about a ms. or partial ms. within three months, then that agency is overwhelmed. However, because so few agents handle sf/f material, writers may be stuck. But certainly, demanding an exclusive over three months is unreasonable for an agent, and over six months is unreasonable for a publisher. But apparently, it does happen. So you have to decide what you are comfortable with, I guess.

Gary Wassner
July 6th, 2004, 03:24 PM
What a dreadful and discouraging system this is! I have been through it myself for the past six years, and everytime I read a thread about it, I get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I am unagented for my fantasy books. I followed my own path, and though I am not getting a freestanding display at Barnes and Noble, I have a great publisher who is supportive, exciting and thoroughly optimistic (if not just a slight bit overwhelmed).

I am agented for my children's books, and I have a publisher who has delayed my release, made me go through countless edits to conform with a program they were developing, and then cancelled the program and fired my editor!
Now I am in manuscript limbo until they release me in 2005, with two sequels already completed and edited.

There are alternatives to this stifling system - the countless query letters that go unread, the constant refusals on the part of editors to read anything unsolicited, the total lack of care and concern for the author who has poured his/her lifeblood into their manuscript and then has to scrounge on the ground like a slimy slug, looking for someone whose foot you can stick to and thereby get noticed!

THE SMALL PRESSES! At least they are less smug and not nearly as cold and cruel! This is the problem inherent in combining art and business. I guess we all have to write fantasy's 'The Devil Wears Prada' kind of books if we want the big editors to take notice. Did I just suggest a Formula for Best Selling Fantasy?

July 7th, 2004, 10:28 AM
What, they're cold, cruel and smug because they won't give you what you want? They're bad because they're large? They're horrible because they screw up, just like any other industry? That's a little facile, GQ, though I'm sorry to hear you got caught in a publisher meltdown.

It is not an easy thing to be a novelist. Not because the bad agents and the bad, big publishers keep you from it, but because simply being published doesn't mean that your work will find an audience and sell. It is a hard goal to attain, with or without publishers helping, and it perhaps should be.

Let me tell you about book publishers -- they are filled with people who could get a lot more money for a lot fewer hours in almost any other arts or media field, but stay in crappy, poverty stricken, technologically backward book publishing. That doesn't mean they are all noble defenders of the arts, by any means, but most of them are hardly the sort of imperious, heartless money-grubbers they are so often portrayed as being by disappointed authors. And unlike any other arts or information industry, book publishing actually welcomes the great unwashed. Even though the hurdles grow larger, by necessity, you, Joe Blow, are at least allowed to attempt to overcome them. You won't find that anywhere else.

Let me tell you about literary agents -- they work all the time, and people think they do nothing. Their job is to obtain the best deals they can for their client's work and to protect and advocate for their clients in every aspect of their clients' writing careers. In return for which, they get a small percentage of the author's earnings and lots of grumbling and complaints from everyone they deal with. It is impossible for them to play protector and agent for everyone who crosses their desk, so they have to pick, and those who they pick are people they will be working with for years, who will be hopefully providing their income, so they pick very, very carefully. Tough noogies for you -- nobody asked you to be a writer or to try and get them to be your agent.

I don't think a writer should look upon a publisher or agent as a friend. There are attempts at fraud, there are mistakes made, there are disasters, and ultimately, it is the writer who is in charge of his or her own career. But neither will I call them my enemies, because I know how hard they work, how dedicated many of them are to the written word, and that they search for treasure and that treasure is not always going to be my writing, but someone else's.

If there weren't agents, publishers would be free to take complete advantage of authors, as they did in the past. If there weren't large publishers, many authors would never get the kind of exposure and readership they enjoy now and book publishing might well fall into the dust and disappear, given that it's been holding on by its fingernails for awhile now. There are many problems within the industry, but that doesn't mean that everyone in it is rotten, or that only small is good.

I think it is great that you have a good small publisher who backs you and I hope it leads to great things. (There are quite a few bad small presses out there that create disasters of their own, so it's good that you didn't have that experience.) I just ask that you put down the tar and feathers. Unless you are just venting, in which case, this is a good place for it. :)

The agents aren't coming up with policies to be capricious. They do it to protect themselves while trying to deal with the flood of query letters and manuscripts that come at them every day. Sometimes they don't handle it well, but at least they're willing to listen at all, a rare thing in the arts. I can't say I'm looking forward to going out there, but I know that those I approach are hoping that I'll have something for them that they will find wonderful, and if they don't and reject me, I know it isn't done with any intentional maliciousness. Incompetent lack of interest, maybe, but not usually ill will. :)