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 I mentioned to her that I had received a manuscript from an unpublished author I felt showed great promise, and that I was preparing to make an offer.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.)