Brad Thor on simultaneous submissions

Hi Writers,
I’m in the middle of transcribing a lengthy Q&A with Brad Thor (The Last Patriot) for the December issue of Writer’s Digest and I thought what he had to say about literary agents was quite interesting for going against the grain of traditional publishing wisdom (this is unedited, direct from a transcript):

I know agents hate hearing this, but the single agent submission process is so un-businesslike, and this stuff about well you should only pitch one agent at a time and wait to hear back—that’s BS. I really don’t believe in that. I tell people, put together the strongest best package you can. Why should you wait months to hear back from an agent only to be told no, and then you have to wait a few more months. It’s ridiculous. I had agents lose my submissions, take forever to get to it and I thought, you know what, this is ridiculous. I’m not doing this just because this is the rules that they’ve set up for themselves. I thought, they’re not going to know if I’m submitting to multiple places. And what happens with agents when they’re submitting you’re book? They try to start a bidding war! They’re not going to wait onesie, twosie, at every publishing house to see what they think. Authors should do multiple submissions to agents. I mean, that’s the way the business world works and whether or not the industry likes it or not, they can’t stop you from submitting to multiple agents and you know what? If an agent misses out on you because they took too long with your query letter, tough luck for them. It will be a smart, savvy agent who recognizes your talent, who snaps you up. And I really believe that.

So, what do you think about multiple submissions to agents?

Keep Writing,

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12 thoughts on “Brad Thor on simultaneous submissions

  1. Kim

    What happens if a publisher finds you have sent the same submission to them and others when their guidelines specify no multiple submissions? Will you become blacklisted with that publisher?

  2. Mike

    It’s the art of sales. Being a writer and working in sales I know this. It’s strictly a numbers game. And Thor’s right: why should you wait for a yes/no response? Cast your bread upon the waters!

  3. Gary

    Professionalism is a two-way street, requiring honest, mutual respect from both parties. A "tradition" that says writers must respect the agent’s time, but the agent doesn’t need to return the favor isn’t healthy. Brad is correct.

  4. Tom

    Those are some pretty strong words. I’ve never had to look for an agent (the idea of a savvy one wanting to snap me up is hilarious even), but I know the industry expects the game to be played a certain way. I also know that if you don’t play by the rules you can become pretty unpopular. That said, it does seem pretty unfair that we have to "put all our eggs in one basket" as Margay said, and then have to sit around and wait on a single response for who knows how long. How would the rest of the business world survive if they only sent word out to a single prospect at a time?

    Having said all that…I really should get some stuff finished up so that I can send it out and start waiting…

  5. Tamara Kaye Sellman

    I’ve long suggested to writers with short individual works (stories, poems, essays, etc.) to submit simultaneously because, yes, the waiting game is deadly for any writer’s career (and I’m also an editor and don’t think editors have any excuse for taking so long to turn around submissions).

    Now that I have two book manuscripts in the works, I’m now at the point where I will need to submit them soon. One ms has been requested by an agent, so I will definitely give them an exclusive look as a professional courtesy (and because I think they’d be great to work with). The other manuscript has been tailored for a specific publisher (who actually doesn’t want agented submissions), so I’ll give them an exclusive look as well.

    But I think Brad’s point is well made: why should writers be forced to wait months, even years, to hear back? Six months is more than adequate for an editor to clear the slush pile. I understand how the publishing world is an overworked, underpaid affair these days, I work inside it myself, but its corporatization has made it even harder for new voices to break through and for diversity to thrive when it all boils down to bottom lines. Our literary culture is fast losing its richness because of these consumer-driven trends, and everybody loses, not just agents or editors or writers, but readers and the general population as well.

    I say, why not submit to multiple agents at once? Brad’s right: if an agent sits too long on a manuscript, that should be their loss and the writer’s gain, should the ms go on to meet with success elsewhere. Writers have been disempowered by this system for far too long and, really, an agent can’t make a living without them, so I say, let’s level the playing field a bit.

  6. John McClarren

    I have been playing the waiting game for over a year and a half, and I have had as many as six agents or publishers(currently five), as well as the US Army, interested in my manuscript all at one time. It is summer now, and I understand that things do move very slowlyl at this time of year. However, I have been on hold for over fourteen weeks now, just waiting for anyone to tell me anything, good or bad. Patience is indeed a virtue in this business, but if I were to only go one at a time, I may well be dead before being published! I am not exactly a young sprout breaking into the writing business. I don’t have time for any nonsense. If my writing does not meet the standards of the publisher, just tell me and I will move right along. Of course, I will anyway.

  7. Margay

    I’m with Brad on this one. It doesn’t make sense, with the way things are going, for an author to put all of their eggs in one basket, only to be told, months down the road, that the eggs aren’t good enough for that particular market. If the agent has the luxury of sending the work off to several prospective publishers simultaneously, why shouldn’t the writer have the same choice when submitting to agent(s)? If I’m going to have to wait a couple of months to find out if an agent wants my book, I’d rather be waiting on a response from multiple agents as opposed to one. And if that starts a "bidding war" between them, so much the better. Who wouldn’t want to have the dilemma of having to pick which agent to use among several who are interested?

  8. Nicole LaMarco

    I agree. I think we should be able to submit multiple submissions to agents. I think we should be able to do this with publishers, as well. I am working on my first book, an autobiography, and I sure don’t want to wait on responses. I think this is why self-publishing has become so popular. It is simply faster. I do want to go the traditional route, though!


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