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Multiple Submissions:
Fair or Foul?

by Durant Imboden

You can save time with multiple submissions, but you'll lose sales if you don't follow the rules.

The term "multiple submissions" refers to the practice of submitting the same manuscript to more than one market at the same time.

Until the 1960s, multiple submissions were virtually unknown, at least in book and magazine publishing. Then, around 1964 or 1965, some of New York's more aggressive literary agents began auctioning off hot manuscripts.

When Xerox introduced machines that allowed cheap, high-quality copies on plain paper, it was only a matter of time until multiple submissions became commonplace.

Today, most publishers will accept multiple submissions from agents. Writers can usually get away with multiple submissions, too, at least when dealing with editors who are willing to consider unagented manuscripts.

Agents aren't always so hospitable. Because most are short-staffed and can't afford outside readers, they may not be willing to read a manuscript without an "exclusive" for a reasonable period of time.

Still, there's a way to get around this problem: the "multiple queries, single submissions" approach that I describe below.

The importance of protocol

Publishers may not mind multiple submissions, but they hate it when writers aren't honest with them.

Because of this, it's unwise to submit a manuscript to more than one editor without saying so in your cover letter. The publishing industry is a relatively small community, and breaches of protocol may come back to haunt you--especially if the freelance reader who evaluates manuscripts for Gonzo Press is also a part-time reader for Boffo Books.

One good strategy is to mention casually that "several other editors are looking at this manuscript" without implying that you're auctioning your manuscript or imposing a deadline.

Still, another approach may be even better:

Multiple queries, single submissions

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