Monday, June 26, 2006

Q & A 50 Simultaneous Submissions

What are your thoughts on simultaneous manuscript submissions to editors? If an un-agented author is lucky enough to generate interest from two houses at a writers conference or through querying, is it okay to send said manuscript to both houses at the same time?

Once Evil Editor was having lunch with a fellow editor. I mentioned to her that I had received a manuscript from an unpublished author I felt showed great promise, and that I was preparing to make an offer. My colleague remarked that she, too, had discovered a manuscript from a future star. I asked her the title of the book, and she replied, "Grapefruit Gives Me a Rash, But Hey, You Only Live Once."

I said, "Now here's an interesting coincidence: my author's title . . ." To make a long story short, we agreed to send simultaneous rejection slips. Also to blackball the author at every agency and publishing house on the planet.

But that was just us. Not every editor would be bothered by reading a 500-page manuscript, loving it, contacting the author, and hearing, "Oh, that. I got an offer last week. Should I have told you?"

To which Evil Editor would say, "You haven't signed the contract yet, have you?"

The author, suddenly hopeful of a bidding war, replies, "No."

And Evil Editor springs into action, blackballing the author at every agency and publishing house on the planet. The book never sees print, and Evil Editor feels great.

But again, that's just me. In truth, the answer to your question depends on whom you ask. Do the two houses in question have submission guidelines posted somewhere? Do the guidelines mention simultaneous submissions? If not, have they posted their response times? If Publisher A responds in three weeks, and Publisher B in six months, I'd say send the fast reader your manuscript, and if you haven't heard back in four weeks, send it to the slowpoke (you could politely demand an explanation of Publisher A first).

If they both claim to take nine months to respond, screw 'em, send it to both (informing them you're submitting to one other publisher). Even Evil Editor admits it's not fair to have to wait a year and a half for two rejections, especially when:

1. They'll probably read only two pages anyway. If it takes you nine months to read two pages, you need to hire more staff.

2. They undoubtedly accept simultaneous submissions from agents, so they can hardly react like you've committed murder. (Goodness, is Evil Editor becoming a softie, taking the writer's side?)

3. The odds that both of them will actually want your manuscript are so small they can best be expressed in negative numbers. (Ah, that's better.)


Brenda Bradshaw said...

I'm all a'flutter with warm fuzzies now.

Anonymous said...

You ARE a warm fuzzie, brenda.

moonpunter said...

Do you think an editor/agent would get upset if I said in my query letter something to the effect of: "Please respond via SASE if you would like to see more, otherwise no reply is needed."?

I've come to the conclusion recently that I'm tired of lame form letters/emails. Why waste your time and mine and the letter carrier's? After 2-3 months I just assume it's a no anyway and gradually forget about it. Forgetting about it feels a lot better than actually being rejected. So I figure, hey, why even bother with negative responses at all? I know many agents already say they don't bother returning Emails unless it's a positive response, so why not just go that way entirely? If it's a letter I might still be out the stamp, but I think the mental distress saved is worth the money.

Who's with me on this?

BTW, "fuxqipys"--make your own joke.

Anonymous said...

OK, now what if one sends the same question to both Evil Editor and Miss Snark...

michaelgav said...

moonpunter, i'm in the other camp. Maybe I'm too new to this, but when I send something out I want to get something back. I get mildly stoked when a good agent scrawls a note in the margin of a form rejection. I want to be able to nudge somebody because they've fallen behind in their slush... I figure if I can do so charmingly (as I imagine Cary Grant would do it if he were alive and trying to write a novel), that's another chance to make an agent smile to herself and make a mental note. This is insane, I realize, but that's how I look at it. It forces me to avoid becoming churlish, which is a good thing.

Even form letters can tell you much about the sender. I received a form letter from Molly Friedrich that was extraordinarily gracious and encouraging. I received one from another well-regarded agent that was a 117th-generation photocopy, faded and grotesquely misaligned on the page. So in my mind, when I jump ahead to Book #8, and the agents are lining up, I have a nice lunch with Molly, and tell this other guy to piss up a rope. But seriously, I believe the professionalism with which these people deal with new writers does provide some insight into how they go about their business.

I also think a fair number of agents have embraced e-queries because it removes the onus of sending replies. I think that's frankly disgusting.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of blackballing someone who so wants to be published that s/he finds more than one interested editor and whose writing "shows great promise"?

Collusion for the purpose of wrecking someone's potential career?

Anonymous said...

Last anonymous: I think you've misplaced your sense of humour. Try looking under the sofa cushions.

kis said...

Besides, I think we've got our lingo mixed up. Isn't it blacklisting? And isn't black-balling--oh, wait, I'm thinking blueballs. Never mind.