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What Are Multiple Submissions in Writing and Publishing?

Learn what multiple submissions in writing and publishing are from editor Robert Lee Brewer, including when writers should make them (if ever) and why they should care.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post on what simultaneous submissions are and how they impact writers. But there's another term that often pops up in submission guidelines that may confuse writers or that writers may think is interchangeable with simultaneous submissions and that term is multiple submissions.

(How to Write Successful Queries for Any Genre of Writing.)

Multiple submissions are not the same as simultaneous submissions. So let's look at what they are, whether writers should make them, and more.

What Are Multiple Submissions in Writing and Publishing?

What Are Multiple Submissions?

Multiple submissions are submissions that include multiple pitches and/or manuscripts. For instance, I write and publish poetry, and it's very common for poets to submit bundles of three to five (and sometimes more) poems per submission. Since I'm sending multiple poems in the same submission, it's called a multiple submission.

This is different from simultaneous submissions, which is the act of sending the same submission to multiple agents and/or publishers at the same time. That said, I've often sent out multiple submissions (bundles of five poems) that were also simultaneous submissions (to three or more poetry publications at the same time). 

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Should Writers Send Multiple Submissions?

I used poetry as an example above, and it is a commonplace occurrence for poets to send multiple submissions of poems (often simultaneously). However, it's not a commonplace occurrence for all types of writing.

(20 literary agents actively seeking writers and their writing.)

For short stories and nonfiction articles, it's more common that editors want writers to avoid submitting multiple submissions. That is, they often want one complete story manuscript at a time (though flash submissions are sometimes an outlier on this).

Even if you have multiple book manuscripts completed (even if they're part of the same series), agents and editors usually prefer a writer pitch one project at a time. That's because publishers can usually only sell one book at a time.

That said, it's not a bad idea to include an extra idea or two at the end of a pitch if you're pitching articles (as opposed to submitting an article on spec). Of course, put most of your energy in the main pitch, but let the editor know if you have an extra idea or two that you also think could be valuable at the end of the query.

Finally, be sure to always follow submission guidelines. So if they say, "no multiple submissions," then respect that. Period.

If You Do Multiple Submissions...

Then, you're likely a poet or writing flash fiction or nonfiction. Here are a couple tips for handling multiple submissions:

  1. Keep records of your submissions. I usually have a spreadsheet of some sort that lists what I submitted (names of each poem), where I submitted it, when I submitted, whether any (or all) were accepted or rejected, and a place for other notes.
  2. Contact editors if part or all of your submission is accepted elsewhere. For simultaneous and multiple submissions, this is essential for avoiding situations where an editor is ready to roll with your work and you have to let them know, "Actually, it's already been accepted elsewhere." Be proactive about letting editors know which pieces are no longer on the market, and it may even get them to look at the other parts of the submission sooner.

Multiple submissions make sense in some cases, but always be sure to follow those submission guidelines.

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