Dueling Columns – I’m all for Simultaneous Submissions

First of all, Larina and I are doing a dueling column on this issue. I am FOR simultaneous submission (the writer’s perspective) and Larina is FOR no simultaneous submission (editor’s perspective). You can read her column right here, and YES it IS the same WordPress site. Cute isn’t it? We’re like twins.

http://larina.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/simsubs/

I’ll post it again at the end of the column. Post up your thoughts, go read her column and do the same thing. But be nice. Okay?

SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS:
One author’s perspective

So, Larina (http://larina.wordpress.com/) and I are doing a little column debate here, a little pro and con, between the writer’s side of this story and the editor’s lofty, snotty, inconsiderate perspective. What? Biased? Of course I am. And I edit too for two publications (warning: first plug) http://www.coloredchalk.com and http://sideshowfables.com, but even so, I am violently in favor of ALL publications utilizing a simultaneous submission policy. There, I said it. And to those that are on the other side of the fence, I say BOLLOCKS, open up your doors, and understand what we are up against, out here in the cold, alone and pecking away, crying into our keyboards, pushing away the wife and kids screaming I MUST WRITE!.

WHAT IS SS?

Basically a simultaneous submission policy says that you may indeed submit your fantastic short story (or novel) to other publications BUT (and this is a BIG BUT, one that this policy hinges on I think) you MUST inform any other magazines or websites the minute you are accepted elsewhere. Why? Well, so they can congratulate you on your success, and pull your story out of the slush pile, and not waste any more time reading it, or running it up the corporate ladder for approval, or whatever it takes to break through.

STATISTICS

I’ll be putting up stats from http://www.duotrope.com, a fantastic site for finding markets and tracking submissions. Go use them now, and donate a couple of dollars too.

RESPONSE TIMES

There is a wide range of times that you can wait for an editor and publication to get back to you. Some of the fastest like Anderbo.com can do it in a day or two, same for Clarkesworld, a big publisher in the fantasy and sci-fi arenas. The FASTEST 25 at Duotrope end with #25 being seven days. That’s quick. Now, at the other end, take a look at this nightmare:

1. Sniplits (387 days)
2. Open City (280 days)
3. Doorways Magazine (252.6 days)
4. Saint Ann’s Review / tsarina (248.1 days)
5. Blackbird (243.5 days)
6. McSweeney’s Quarterly (221.8 days)
7. Another Chicago Magazine (201.1 days)
8. Fence (192 days)
9. Baltimore Review, The (187.1 days)
10. Ascent (184.9 days)
11. Public Space, A (181.8 days)
12. Rambler, The (180.8 days)
13. Coyote Wild (177.8 days)
14. Low Rent Magazine (176 days)
15. Chattahoochee Review (170.9 days)
16. Yale Review (170.4 days)
17. Blue Mesa Review (165.4 days)
18. Inkwell Journal (160.4 days)
19. Crab Orchard Review (156.3 days)
20. Antioch Review (151.8 days)
21. Harvard Review (150.2 days)
22. Gettysburg Review (147.5 days)
23. Crazyhorse (147.4 days)
24. Dark Recesses (147 days)
25. Indiana Review (145.1 days)

I’m still waiting to hear back from St. Ann’s and it has been over 400 days for one story and NO RESPONSE from the editors. Ever. Repeatedly.

There are some big names on here – McSweeney’s, APS, Antioch, Harvard, Crazyhorse. So let us say you are waiting on a top publication. I won’t even pick the longest one. Say an average of about six months, or 180 days. Think about how long that will take you. You wait six months, only to get rejected. Do it again. Wait six months. Get rejected. Do it again. And again, and again, and again. Now we get to talk about acceptance rates, to REALLY make this all sound dire.

ACCEPTANCE RATES

Here are the Top 25 HARDEST to get into, also from Duotrope:

1. Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF) (0.2 %)
2. Glimmer Train Stories (0.3 %)
3. Ninth Letter (0.3 %)
4. Missouri Review (0.3 %)
5. Clarkesworld Magazine (0.4 %)
6. Kenyon Review (0.6 %)
7. Narrative Magazine (0.6 %)
8. Pedestal Magazine (0.7 %)
9. Willow Springs (0.7 %)
10. Mid-American Review (0.8 %)
11. Hobart (Print) (0.8 %)
12. Analog Science Fiction & Fact (0.8 %)
13. McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (0.8 %)
14. Strange Horizons (0.9 %)
15. Atlantic Monthly, The (0.9 %)
16. Hayden’s Ferry Review (0.9 %)
17. Colorado Review (0.9 %)
18. DIAGRAM (1.1 %)
19. Black Warrior Review (1.1 %)
20. Shimmer (1.2 %)
21. Gulf Coast (1.2 %)
22. Futurismic (1.2 %)
23. upstreet TEMP CLOSED (1.2 %)
24. failbetter.com (1.2 %)
25. GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator (1.3 %)

Notice something in common? The top 25 are all at about 1%. That means 99% percent get rejected. And that doesn’t even include the listings that are at a big fat ZERO, they don’t show up at all. Again, some big names in here – F&SF, Glimmer Train, Missouri Review, Clarkesworld, Kenyon, Narrative, Hobart, Analog, McSweeney’s, Atlantic, Colorado Review, Black Warrior, GUD – an elite list that most of us would KILL to be on.

So, if we add this acceptance rate of 1% to the six month waiting period, how long is that damn story of yours going to take to finally break through? Something like FIFTY YEARS, right? Well screw that, I might as well get drunk and watch bad tv.

GOOD COMPANY:

Bummed out yet? Don’t be. There is hope. And I don’t mean just send your work to much easier places. I mean, you’re in good company. Of those 25 HARDEST to get into, how many do you think are NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS? Only NINE. So the rest, they get it, and they find a way to deal with it. At least those on THIS list with NSS policies are fast. The eight that do require you to submit to them, and only them (F&SF, Clarkesworld, Analog, McSweeney’s Internet, Strange Horizons, Atlantic, Shimmer, and Futurismic) have a range of 3 days up to 44 days. Most are in the 15-30 day range. A very reasonable time, in my opinion, and certainly not six months.

GOOD COMPANY EXAMPLE:

Here is a quote from Orchid: A Literary Review that about sums it up for me.

“…and, yes, we do consider simultaneous submissions. After all, we’ve heard that the average story is submitted twenty (or more) times and rejected twenty (or more) times before being published. At that rate, without simultaneously submitting, it would take at least five years to place a story. That just seems mean.”

BAD COMPANY:

So we feel better now, a little bit anyway, having seen that some of the top publications (in a wide range of genres too) get it, and are for SS. But go back to that first list, those that take the LONGEST. Here are the real culprits, and I’ll give my thoughts on them in a second.

Of those first 25, the SLOWEST to respond, how many do you think are ALSO no SS? Luckily only SIX:

Sniplits – 387 (SNIPLITS? What the hell?)
Ascent – 184
Coyote – 177
Yale – 170
Antioch – 157
Dark Recesses – 147

For some of these, it may be that they are understaffed, or for the journals, tied to a university, away for the summer. But really? I forgive none of them.

NOVELS:

This one is tough. I can ALMOST understand why some presses would have this policy, but COME ON. This is even MORE of a situation that calls for NO simultaneous submission. I don’t care if you run it past two interns, a co-editor, the editor and up the ladder to the CEO and whatever other yahoos at the top have to read it. Do you know how hard it is to publish a novel? Again, I think it is in that 1% range. And we spend YEARS writing our novels. I don’t think I’ve ever taken more than three months to write a short story and most of that is just trying to fix little things. Some stories CAN take years to perfect, but it’s not like you’re working several hours a day and writing 60,000-100,000 words. I can’t bend on this.

Now…I’m not talking about somebody asking for an “exclusive” or the “full manuscript”. I think if you are having an open conversation with an agent or publisher you should tell the truth. I just went through this with an agent on the east coast. I told her my novel Transubstantiate was at a couple of presses and she said fine. I sent her a synopsis, she asked for a chapter. She came here, read it, and said send the whole thing. I sent it to her, with the promise that she would read it in THIRTY days, and she kept her word. She rejected it in THIRTY days, right on time.

And what are the odds? What are the odds that TWO publishers will actually decide to publish your novel? Unless you are really successful, and are in some sort of bidding war or actually are in a position where you know your book will sell, if you make a living at it…but that’s not what I’m talking about. The worst case scenario if two presses want it…you just burned a bridge. The odds are just too much against us for me to worry about that. But I can almost understand it.

SOLUTION:

I had an interesting talk with Beth over at Shimmer. I’d sent in a query because my story was 6800 words, and they ask for you to do that for anything over 5000 words. Now, I like what Shimmer is doing, but I made the mistake of saying that this story was indeed at other publications. She refused to even read my query. I understand that, completely. But I asked her some follow up questions, basically wondering why Shimmer was a no simultaneous submission publication. Her response?

“I’m sorry you find this inconvenient, and hope you find success with the publishers who work according to your expectations.”

Wow. Is that a bit snarky or is it just me? I can’t tell sometimes. I wasn’t asking her to bend to my whim, or change their policy simply to please me (although that would have been nice) I was just curious as to WHY they adopted this policy when so many publications were NOT doing it that way anymore. Was it staff, number of submissions, too many horror stories about accepting a story only to find it gone when they got back to you six months later? At least Shimmer is fast, only taking 10 days.

What to do? Here are a couple of solutions:

1. SCREW THEM.

What nerve. Who are these people to make me wait six months, with a 1% acceptance rate? That’s cruel and I won’t stand for it. So, don’t submit to them. Avoid them, they’ll never run your work anyway, and because of their attitude, they are now officially ignored.

or more reasonably

2. RESPECT IT.

Put those guys up front, especially those that are fast. Send it out, and wait 10 days. That’s not so bad. Spend the first three months of your submissions targeting those top places with fast response times. I’ve done that before with F&SF, Clarkesworld, Cemetery Dance, and others.

or

3. TIME IT

So I entered a story, “Victimized” this 6800 word neo-noir thriller into the recent BOMB contest. Now, I know that my odds of winning are slim and none. BUT…maybe the editor really likes dark, rich stories, or maybe it could place, and still get published. So I have two choices. Submit and wait for 4-5 months OR…(and this is what I did) TIME IT. What do I mean? Let me explain.

Say you are sending out your best story ever to about 10 places that you really love, that seem like a good fit. Most of them are in the 1% acceptance range, maybe a couple in the 5% range, some in the 10% range. One, BOMB is having a contest, and is NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS. Figure out (ie, Duotrope again) what the AVERAGE time is for all of these, and then send them out so that they all hit on about the same date. If BOMB is the longest at say 120 days, send it first. Five are at 90 days, so send them in a month. The other five are 30 days, so wait a couple months, then send them out. They’ll all hit on or about the same day. And that way you don’t wait for years, and still get a shot at those hard to break into magazines. We just need to be realistic with 1% acceptance rates.

And when NONE of them take it…start all over again with the next tier of magazines and journals until your story finds a home. NEVER give up.

*NOTE: And don’t forget about online fiction. It used to be a taboo, a blemish or sorts, the last place to put your work. No so anymore. Many “literary” and award winning publications and universities are adding in an online presence OR even going to ONLY online. Maybe for additional exposure, or maybe to save money. I think Dogmatika.com, WordRiot.com, OpiumMagazine.com and 3:AMMagazine.com are all doing really great work, just to name a few. Dzanc Books just added TheCollagist.com with Matt Bell at the helm. It’s great exposure, and when somebody asks “Got something I can read?” you just send them over.

And the last option…

4. IGNORE IT.

I’ve asked a lot of my fellow writers, and most of them do ignore it. I’ve asked published authors, professors, editors and other esteemed professionals and most say just ignore it. Think of the odds. I mean, F&SF and Clarkesworld are going to be fighting over my story? And BOTH will accept it at the same time? It’ll never happen. At least, not until I’m very successful, and at that time, I may not worry about it. Or maybe they’ll be soliciting ME by then. There is always the risk of getting placed on some BLACKLIST, but I’ve never heard of such a thing. And I’ve never been in a position where two places accepted a story at the exact same time. As long as you send off a withdraw notice immediately, you should be fine. And many times, in doing that, I’ve gotten into conversations with editors, talking about my work, and/or where it did end up, and now that I’ve got a bit more of a personal relationship with this editor, I may stand out when I submit. “Oh, that dysfunctional Richard submitted again. Gather around all, lets see what insanity he sent in this time. Elephant penis? Modern vampire tale?”

CONCLUSION:

It’s up to you how to submit, what stories to send to each publication, and how you abide by the rules. Or not. I personally think that the NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSION guideline should be abolished. It’s hard enough out here for us struggling writers without this rule. We need every break we can get.

ALTERNATE OPINION:

Visit http://larina.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/simsubs/ and see what Larina has to say. I don’t know what her post is going to be, we haven’t talked at all, so it’ll be interesting to see what arguments she presents. Be kind.

Peace,
Richard

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14 comments on “Dueling Columns – I’m all for Simultaneous Submissions

  1. […] Richard Thomas’ view of simultaneous submissions from a writers’ perspective over at his blog! Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)simultaneous submissions again Published […]

  2. ilurapress says:

    Hey,
    Interesting comparison, that only 9 insist on no simultaneous submissions. However, often publishers who encourage SS also complain that it would be nice if contributors did inform them… Larina brings up those points as well. We did hear of some authors who had been blacklisted, not as much because they submitted elsewhere but because they didn’t inform. Hmm.

    • wickerkat says:

      Thanks Ilura Press, I love the work you are doing. Funny, I actually have submitted my novel, Transubstantiate, to you. It’s with you right now. I had to go back and check to see if you are SS or NSS…had a moment of panic there. (They’re okay with SS, by the way). Great to hear that what was getting people in trouble was NOT being professional and letting people know if they got accepted someplace else. That’s why I track ALL of my submissions at Duotrope, it’s the only way I can keep track of it all. I appreciate your input and thoughts.

      Peace,
      Richard

  3. larina says:

    Some excellent points from the writers’ POV here, Richard. I dealt with some of the issues you raise over at S&I (how funny that I note we accept simultaneous submissions at The Externalist mostly because of our turnaround time), but love how you added actual suggestions for how writers deal with it. My one word of advice to add to yours is that if you decide to submit simultaneously, do so courteously and professionally. Follow the guidelines for withdrawal *precisely.*

    Sorry to hear that you got that reaction from Shimmer. Unfortunately, even editors get attitudes!

  4. wickerkat says:

    Right on, I agree 100%.

  5. TBell says:

    Publishers who are against simultaneous submissions should learn to read faster.

  6. Joseph says:

    It’s weird that I submitted a story on a Saturday night (online) to one of the magazines listed and had a rejection by 9 am the following Monday. What does that mean? It’s listed at over 100 days up there.

  7. wickerkat says:

    Sometimes they cruise right through them. Without knowing which publication or what you submitted, it’s hard to say. I assume it was an appropriate submission and not a science fiction story to a romance magazine. Did you double check the guidelines? Sometimes they’ll reject them real fast if they aren’t in the right format. But that sounds really fast. Also, will schools back in session, they could just have a lot of people volunteering and excited to be back at it, if it is attached to a university. Good luck and keep submitting. Let me know if I can help.

    Peace,
    Richard

  8. Joseph says:

    It was Low Rent. There shouldn’t have been any format/genre issue. Oh well, on to the next one…

  9. ibexstudios says:

    Thank you for this! I have always felt quite awkward about simultaneous submission protocol… I’ve just done it sneakily!

    Becca

    • wickerkat says:

      You’re welcome. It’s hard enough out here without the editors/magazines/management making it a long, slow, drawn out and painful death as well.

      Peace,
      Richard

  10. Phil says:

    I really enjoyed this essay. I recently responded to a post on a writers’ website about simultaneous submissions. I said that I submitted to a few journals last year that do not take sim subs, and 3 people on the forum wanted to cut my head off. One lady even suggested to me that I was “cheating” and “desperate” to get published. She then went on for 3 angry paragraphs about how she’s such a good writer that she doesn’t need to sim sub because she understands the markets and has a high accepatance rate. Blah blah blah.

    Anyway, thanks for this! I agree with you on all points, and it makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one who sim subs.

    • Richard Thomas says:

      They’re crazy. On so many levels. You should wait a year for some place that is a 1% acceptance rate? And then do it again, and again? You’ll never get published. I outlined a few choices, so it’s really up to you, Phil, but I’ve yet to have it bite me in the ass. That lady must be a genius. The rest of us hacks aren’t that lucky. Hell, I had 20 stories accepted last year, and my acceptance rate was only about 12%. Good luck, and let me know if I can help with anything else. I write some columns over at Lit Reactor, they may be helpful too:

      http://litreactor.com/team/richard-thomas

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