Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Simultaneous Submissions Dilemma

Imagine going to a job interview, and the interviewer saying:

"Don't apply anywhere else because we may want you 1-6 months down the road."

Or going out on a first date and saying:

"Don't date anyone else because I may end up liking you after all."

Crazy, right? And yet, it's perfectly acceptable for publications to say this, by way of simultaneous submissions. I've been thinking about this lately, because I really want to make a simultaneous submission that's "not allowed".

I've been trying to decide whether or not to send the submission I'd sent to the Christian Science Monitor about 1 1/2 weeks ago to Skirt! magazine. Normally I'd have sent the piece to Skirt first, because their deadline for the themed essay I wrote is July 1. But I really want to get into the CSM, & this essay seemed perfect. Plus the CSM doesn't accept previously published material. So if it had been published by Skirt, I could never again submit it to the CSM.

So far my experience has been: if someone wants my piece, I hear back quickly. However...

Is possible my week-old email is still sitting in someone's inbox, unopened and unread? I don't think so. But then again, what if by some weird cosmic coincidence Skirt accepted and then the CSM contacted me in the next two weeks and also wanted the article? Again, very unlikely (I could only dream that those 2 publications would both want my piece!...which is another reason to make a simul. submission) But on the very off chance that it happened, I'd have to confess to breaking the simultaneous submission rule. Would that turn the CSM off to accepting future articles from me?

Well, there's still another week left until I need to make a decision. I just wish these publications would give some leeway on the simultaneous submissions front. In the meantime, I'll wait...


Michele said...

We are always waiting, Colleen. The thing with simultaneous submissions is sometimes it can get you in trouble. I've wanted to do this before too. But I've read about other writers who have really ended up in a sticky situation because they did this very thing. Sometimes it works out and nobody finds out. Other times it doesn't. One thing seasoned writers "seem" to agree on is that you can pitch a magazine or publication for an idea and at the same time pitch another publication with that same idea that has a different spin on the topic. That works out quite nicely. I've also read of writers in that situation who had both of those pieces accepted and they wrote about the same idea with a different spin and successfully pulled it off. That works.

I know it gets old waiting, but I guess it's a requirement...


Colleen said...

Yes, I guess it's a matter of patience and having enough pieces out there that it doesn't matter whether one essay I wrote is accepted this month or 6 months from now.

I've seen what a difference simultaneous submissions makes while submitting to newspapers. I submitted to around 40 papers and got 3 acceptances within a month. If I wasn't able to submit simultaneously, those same 3 acceptances would have taken - literally - years! (Figuring I'd have waited 3 months to hear back from each paper.)

It just makes me wonder what the bigger risk is - not waiting, or waiting?

pcron said...

I live Hawaii. I've written dozens of stories: fiction and non-, children's stories, a short children's' Xmas book. Two magazines have published my work, but I knew the editors. I am stuck, appalled by the difficulty in deciding how to publish further. Internet postings by publishers are confusing, agent postings seem greedy, and google responses are so numerous that they're daunting. I'm also daunted by "old" methods of submission by mail, requiring expensive posting, mail envelopes, etc. I'd like to post stories online. The New Yorker was easy to submit to online, but of course my immature story was refused. Is there a simple route to publication for aspiring writers?

Michele said...

@ Colleen: Each writer has to make that choice for him or herself. If you stick to the same idea with a different spin, you're safe anyway. :-) As for simultaneous submissions, it all depends on whether or not the publications state: No simultaneous submissions...

Ah, the writer's life....

@ pcron: I don't think there is an easy road to publication--unless you happen to luck out like some writers do. It's still not easy though. Even if you have an easy time getting your query accepted, you still have to write the piece and even then it can be cut at the last minute for space limits or whatever other reason. Remember the old adage: Anything worth having isn't easy to attain?

Here's to success with all your writing endeavors!


Colleen said...

Hi Pcron,

I hear you! I've been reading a lot of writing books, blogs and magazines trying to get the answer to that question myself..and have also been talking with many writers to get their input.

The conclusion I've come to is that there's no one simple method to getting published. Everyone has their own ideas, and it gets confusing figuring out who's got the best method (take the whole 'simultaneous submissions' thing, for example! Everyone has a different thought about it).

There are 2 main things that have helped me get "unstuck" when I'm not sure what to do next or feel like I'll never get there:

1. A few months ago, I arranged to meet with a freelancer every week and ask her all of those questions that bubble up when I'm trying to figure out what to do next and how to go about it (I met her when taking an adult ed class at a community college, & then joined her writer's group several years ago). Sometimes she's got solid answers, and other times just voicing my doubts and getting positive encouragement is enough to move me forward.

2. Writing my specific goals, thoughts & accomplishments on this blog (and having the support & encouragement of writers/blog readers like Anne, Carmen and Michele)helps me stay focused and see that I am moving forward, even when it doesn't feel like it!

The fact that you've had 2 articles published is excellent! And that you knew those editors is a positive thing. You're using your connections to get's something I sorely need to work on. Getting published by an unknown editor, I think, takes one main thing: persistence. My theory is that if I submit professional queries/essay to the same editors month after month, eventually they'll feel as if they "know" me and will be more likely to pay attention to my pieces as time passes.

It sounds like one of your dream publications is The New Yorker, and I admire your kahunas at getting right out there and submitting to them! One of my dream pubs is Family Circle, but I also feel I need more clips and experience before they'll publish a piece of mine. I'm working on submitting to smaller publications, with the end goal being getting something published there, as well as a few other dream glossies.

I've been meaning to post about this book I'm reading now: Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer. It's written by Jenna Glatzer, the editor of, and has tons of practical information, links and resources. If you get half as much out of it as I have so far (and I'm only halfway through), it's worth the read!

pcron said...

Thanks for your feedback, Colleen. I sporadically attend three writers' groups here in Honolulu; we ask our kahunas, our local divinities, for guidance. I am the only man at some meetings, although some of the women seem to have more cojones than I do.

Colleen said...

Ha! Oops. I guess both kahunas and cojones are helpful in this business.