Joanne's post Tuesday sent me into a frenzy of research to see what I could find on multiple submissions. As I commented then, I'm 69 and therefore will send out multiple submissions because replies take so darn long and I don't wish to be published posthumously. Neither do you!
An extreme, but true example: An agent once received a rejection letter for a client's book more than a year after another house had published it. The length of time is usually forgivable though. The editor's balancing act of way too much to do, makes a mother's job look like a stroll in the park.
Every book I scanned recommended multiple submissions but, with caveats. I will give the cons first and then we will get down to business.
- If an editor is on the fence about your submissions, he may well reject it, thinking one of the others will pick it up.
- What if two or three or more want the manuscript? Choose one and write immediately to the others to say a publisher has accepted it and please take your proposal off the consideration list.
- Some publishers won't accept multiple submissions
- What if you have exhausted all the publishing house possibilities and then want to hire an agent? You can see why they won't be thrilled.
Those are the gambles.
Do you inform the publisher? I say "Yes". So do all the books I scanned, except one, which suggests that if an agent sent it out without informing of multiple submissions, he would lose credibility. We have no credibility to lose and can't be expected to know the conventions (so we don't need to tell) says that book. I disagree. Shouldn't we have done our research and found out those conventions? Again, I say yes, send 'em out, but let them all know you are submitting to several houses.
So, my decision is to be polite and let them know. But how? Mention it in a low key manner and you might want to imply that their house is the one you prefer. You can play stupid if you wish, and say you know your book has only a slim chance of being published so you sent out several submissions. I don't like that one. It's dishonest. And,I don't want anybody to see the words 'slim chance'. They might agree.
The caveats: If you don't tell, and an editor spends weeks getting eveything lined up to be able to make you an offer - and finds out another house has already bought your manuscript, you will find that editor will forget like an elephant AND mention it around.
If two publishers offer contracts and you sign them both, when they find out, you will be banned, banned, BANNED, as in you will never get a book of that sort published again. Anywhere. You will have to try your hand at cookbooks.
Publishers don't have a problem with multiple submissions. They know how long everything takes and don't expect you to wait a lifetime. If an editor takes an interest in the ms, he will likely then keep in touch with the author.
You can send out multiple submissions to agents too. Same rules apply, BUT, don't send out multiple submissions to agents AND publishers at the same time.
Some Miscellaneous Great Ideas.
You already know to call the publisahing houses and find out the names of the editors you want to submit to, because this at least gets an editor to see it. What about looking at some similar books to your's, and see who published it and if an editor's name is mentioned, and then you can write directly to someone who probably has more interest because it is her kind of book? The same goes for agents. See who got thanked in the book.
Attend conventions and meet some editors and agents. Use Writers' Market - the latest edition. Even then, editors may have left the house. Publishers' web sites may not be up-to-date. Check it out as best you can. Whatever, try to get an editor - the right editor's - name so you can at least get them to open the envelope and maybe more.
Tracking: Give every project a page of its own, labelled and dated, and list it in a contents index. Keep a running list of your submissions, date sent, results, follow-ups with date for that project. Also start a submissions page with four columns: date, proposal, house and reply. Now you can see at a glance which needs follow up and also, you will remember which houses you sent any proposal to, for that moment when (Ah yes!) you have to tell them someone else is going to publish it.
Make a list of publishers and note any where an editor you have met at a conference now works. Submit to them first.
The LMP - The Literary Marketplace lists several thousand publishers, their addresses and telephone numbers and key editors. You can find them in libraries.
I have to stop somewhere right? But I have one terrific hint to end with: stagger your submissions - a week apart say - and then you can ask for a prompt reply as there are other you wish to whom I would like to submit.
Would you send out multiple submissions?