On Simultaneous Submissions

Over at the Kenyon Review‘s blog yesterday Editor David Lynn addressed the subject of simultaneous submissions. But curiously, throughout his post Lynn used the term “multiple submissions,” which I’ve typically found refers to the practice of sending more than one submission at a time to the same publication for consideration; the post’s focus is rather the practice of sending the same piece to more than one publication for review at the same time. (In fact, “simultaneous submissions” is how the journal’s own guidelines page describes what appears in the blog post as “multiple submissions.”)

Anyway. In the post, Lynn explains why Kenyon Review does not accept simultaneous submissions. He concludes:

Here’s my take: that there ought to be a fair understanding on both sides of the relationship. If authors want to have their work considered by The Kenyon Review or another magazine that prefers not to receive multiple submissions, then they ought to honor that request. Likewise, the editors of those journals should do everything they can to respond to the submission in a reasonable amount of time. Say three months? If after that period an author has received no word, then a letter or email of inquiry is entirely justified, or even a withdrawal of the submission so that it can be sent to another publication.

And, to his credit, he does express an interest in knowing our thoughts about this.

So here are my thoughts. I love The Kenyon Review. I’m a subscriber. I’ve received a couple of very nice rejection notes from the fiction editor, and I’d love, love, love to have my work included in the journal’s pages one day. Who wouldn’t?

But the trouble is that if every journal asked for three months’ exclusivity just to consider a piece, stories that might need to be seen by 20 (or more–it happens, and it has happened to me more than once) journals before finding a home would be in circulation for five years before receiving an acceptance. (By the way, while most of my KR submissions have received remarkably prompt replies, the journal’s guidelines also note that responses can take “up to four months.”) And as for the idea of withdrawing a piece after three months with no answer so you can try somewhere else, well, that seems like a waste of three months to me

You know what I’m going to say: If all of those 20+ journals one might need to try before netting an acceptance took “up to four months,” it would be well into year seven (closer to year eight) of the submission process before the good news arrived. Add to that the time it takes to write and revise a story so that it’s even ready to be submitted, plus the time it will take for production and publication (especially for print journals) and we’re quite possibly starting to approach the decade mark. For one story.

So while I quite truly possess tremendous admiration for the work KR is doing, I do think that “even” a three-month exclusivity period is too long.

Now I’ll quote again from Lynn’s post: “What do you think? I’m curious to know.”

10 thoughts on “On Simultaneous Submissions

  1. Brett Jocelyn Epstein says:

    I agree with you, Erika. It just isn’t reasonable for most magazines to expect exclusivity (unless they can respond in, say, a couple of weeks). To keep everything fair, magazines should understand and accept that simultaneous submissions will happen, and they should attempt to respond as promptly as possible. Meanwhile, writers should be sure to carefully review publications and their needs before sending off their work (in order to not waste editors’ time with work that isn’t appropriate) and they should tell editors immediately if a piece has been accepted elsewhere.
    Best wishes,

  2. Erika Dreifus says:

    Thank you for your comment, Brett. Yes, I agree with you, and you touch on a point Lynn’s post conveys, too. It is so important for writers to inform journals that still may be considering their work when a given piece has been accepted elsewhere. This is why it’s essential to keep careful records of where one’s work has gone and what has happened to it. Here I’ll give myself some credit–the first people I tell about an acceptance (immediately after my tiny fan base of very close family and friends) are the editors of the journals still considering the work.

  3. Jlyn says:

    I completely agree Erika. The math speaks for itself – five years for a story to find a home? Not okay.

    I’ve been reading this blog for awhile and find it very enjoyable and informative. Keep up the good work!

    Jennifer Stevens

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is one editorial policy writers can (usually) safely subvert. Just do it anyway–submit simultaneously. As soon as you hear good news from one, immediately withdraw it from others.

  5. The Writers' Group says:

    A “fair understanding,” indeed! As it stands, time does not favor the writer. I’m both a writer and fiction reader for a wonderful literary journal and I can’t imagine any fair-minded individual expecting a writer to submit to one market at a time. Oh well, there goes whatever slim chance I had at the Kenyon.


  6. Erika Dreifus says:

    Thanks for the additional input, everyone. And I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog, Jennifer!

  7. Storyglossia Editor says:

    As a writer I completely agree. It is unreasonable for journals to expect us to go at them one at a time. I’ve had stories accepted on the first go round, and I’ve had stories get 30+ rejections before being published, and I’ve had many, many, submissions which have never been responded to. Writers have no choice but to simultaneously submit. As an editor, however, I confess to being extremely annoyed at how many withdrawals I’ve had recently, some of which have come a week or less after the submission was originally received. My response to that is that if your work is starting to get regularly accepted you might consider more selective submissions. Quit shotgunning submissions. With your new work, try submitting only to carefully selected targets. Also, I don’t need to be notified that the submission is simultaneous–that’s assumed. And telling me so doesn’t encourage me to read it faster. Maybe even the opposite. A simul is likely to be picked up elsewhere and thus withdrawn, so what’s the hurry? On the other hand, a story that has only been sent to Storyglossia might just move to the top of the stack, particularly if your cover letter demonstrated that you’ve actually read the journal before submitting.

  8. Erika Dreifus says:

    Hi, Storyglossia Editor (Steven?), and thanks for chiming in.

    My guess is that, unfortunately, some of your submitters are applying the policy cited in many other journal guidelines to yours–namely, they’re being up front about their simultaneous submissions. I agree with you, though; if a journal accepts simultaneous submissions but does not ask writers to state outright that a submission is simultaneous, I don’t.

  9. Coolshoes says:

    Ditto to all of the above. Editors cannot expect writers to submit exclusively unless they dramatically decrease response times, and even then, it’s probably not worth it.
    The only exception may be is if all your work is being accepted by top mags regularly, but even then the time line is not in your favor.
    Perhaps if more publications had online submissions (at not cost, with an easy submission-status follow system and a one-button click to withdraw, it would make things easier for everyone.
    And for those who worry that their simultaneous submissions will get picked up by two competing, top tier publications on the same day…well, you must be a fiction writer!
    I say keep those simultaneous submissions going, and unless the guidelines specifically ask it to be earmarked as such, keep mum and do be polite and withdraw it when necessary.

  10. Erika Dreifus says:

    Thanks for your input, coolshoes.

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