Monday, February 9, 2015

Why I Don't Simultaneously Submit

           Yesterday’s post introduced the topic of simultaneous submissions—the only sensible option for maximizing one’s audience. Today, though, I have to come clean—I typically avoid simultaneous submissions.
            Truth is, my workplace doesn’t care about publications. (As an instructor instead of a professor, teaching, not research, is my focus.) I have no outside push to publish, although I love to do so; the poems can make their public debuts on their own time.
            What’s more, when a poem is saying something that I feel deeply, I find a certain amount of satisfaction from just posting it to social media—Facebook, in particular, with its limited distribution—or from including it in a blog post here. When I’m communicating something essential to me—to my thinking, my spirit—I just go ahead and find an audience. (An important caveat from this long-time editor: A poem included in a blog post isn’t unpublished, and most journals do not accept previously published work.)
            But communication should be two-sided, and you won’t find my poems wrapped up in little ribbons in a trunk when I’m dead. I’m sticking them in the faces of readers whenever I want to, because for me, poems are both art and expression.
            I do like to publish my work in journals, though, in order to find different audiences, and more neutral ones—I daresay my friends sort of like me and have an interest in hearing what I have to say. The particularly accomplished poems, the ones I consider my strongest work, I reserve for journal and eventual book publication.
            Some journals offer lightning-quick responses—within a day, even. But there are plenty that take months or even a year to respond. Simultaneous submissions prod slow mags into faster responses, and they make good use of writers’ time. Simulsubs are also the industry standard, so they are expected by editors—they don’t even surprise those editors who announce a no-simulsub policy that writers violate, although I think that’s a pretty impolite thing to do.
            My submissions that are at magazines right now are, for the most part, simultaneously offered to three or four magazines, but my norm is not to simultaneously submit at all. I have been having very good luck with my submissions, and I find withdrawing inconvenient, so I like to try my luck one at a time.
            By not simultaneously submitting, I avoid a pitfalls that most active publishers encounter—the acceptance of a piece that we thought we had withdrawn, the sudden realization that work we submitted is previously published, or confusion about release dates for pieces that are being published in two forums, one of which allows previously published work (e.g., a journal and an anthology). The simultaneous submitter must keep meticulous records and communicate quickly and clearly to editors as the need arises. I am not a great record-keeper, so tracking submissions is a challenge for me.
            The most important reason that I avoid simultaneously submitting is that I am forced to write more poems to keep several submissions in the hopper at any given time. Quite simply, I have found that a single-submission practice results in the composition of more poems. If I have part of a submission packet ready to go, I’m likely to revise some work to complete the grouping, or even to write a new poem. A week of earnest work can result in a submission packet’s worth of work, provided I’ve come up with a few good poems in that time.
            I do not write a packet of poems in a week and send it out on Saturday, of course—I’m always writing, and two or three good submission packets may well present themselves at the end of the month. I usually get submissions together every month or two, so there is plenty to choose from (and rejections are always streaming in to pad those packets further!).

            It’s nice not to have to publish for any outside reviewer or evaluation team. Maximizing one’s writing career suggests that simultaneous submissions are absolutely the way to go. Personally, though, I like prodding myself to write more and more and more, if only to make up for the years when I did no writing at all. Avoiding simultaneous submissions won’t make me a household name, but it is a personal strategy that works quite well for the artist in me.


  1. (I just deleted my original post by mistake-- sorry! Let's try this again!) This essay gives wonderful advice. Yesterday's did, too. You definitely straddling that fence, showing us both pastures. I agree simultaneous submissions are a personal choice tied up in our creative rhythms AND ambitions. You certainly have me rethinking my approach to sending out work. Honestly, I've had to retract a piece after it was accepted elsewhere, and I felt like a schmuck!

    1. Thanks for saying so, Cate! I think the submission process can be a source of inspiration in itself, and I try to regard it that way. It makes the whole thing much nicer. :)

  2. *Your* (Wow, I'm filling up your comments with my corrections and mistakes.)

  3. Though I believe strongly in simultaneous submissions as an editor--as I learned from you and MAR, it makes me act on work faster, so as not to lose good work--I find that the longer I'm in the game, the more editors I come to know personally, I don't simultaneously submit to those editors/journals. The ones I don't know, or the ones whose staffs change with every new grad cohort, I'm more likely to simultaneously submit to those, simply because the journal's aesthetic changes with the editor and with such a quick turnaround of editors, it's hard to get a grasp on what that aesthetic shift is going to be.

    (For some reason, I can't get this to sign off with my name...)