Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Your "No Sim-Sub" Policy is Stupid

Lest we go too far afield with our recent debates about editors, agents and editors, an anonymous reader sent us this tidbit for consideration:

"I once received a rejection from a small literary journal TWO YEARS after submission. The rejection, which is now long gone, was 80% apology and 20% rejection with an invitation to resubmit using simultaneous submissions, which was strictly against the lit mag's policy.  What the editors didn't know is that I always send my poems out to at least 6 magazines at a time, regardless of policies against multiple submissions. In my view, the world moves too fast for me to sit around waiting forever while minds are made up...or more accurately not made up."

It begs the question: Do you send your stuff out simultaneously even when not permitted to do so? Should magazines do away with exclusive read policies?

16 comments:

Gloria, Writer Reading said...

The question is; who doesn't send out a zillion packets at once. Otherwise, you'd be dead by the time all your work is published. Of course, then it might actually get respect.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I very agressively do not follow these guidelines. This anecdote you have is a major reason why. I'll add a few to it: I've got pieces at exclusive-demanding journals for 7-10 months and not counting.

Sorry, but when you demand exclusivity (or ask to "note" that it's a simsub in the submission, which means that you're going to treat my submission differently), you better have a quick turnaround. If not, I'm not going to bother to honor your exclusivity demands.

The New Yorker might be the tops, but they've been hanging onto my story for almost a year. Don't tell me that when TC Boyle sends a story they pile it up and sit on it for a year. Don't tell me that. They have a double standard that means if you're a nobody sending into the slush, your chances are almost nil. Maybe they're exactly nil, I dunno. But holding onto my story for a year? And making me tie it up with exclusivity? Sorry, I don't care who you are -- that's very, very wrong.

Then there's the academic journals who pay zero and yet have the nerve to demand exclusivity. I completely ignore that.

There are, however, some journals whose no-simsub rule I definitely adhere to. Those are the journals that get back to you in a timely manner. Threepenny Review and Subtropics are two good examples. But there are many others and for these places that are good about returning your work, of course I honor their exclusivity requests. However, I have to admit that I doubt my submission is read beyond the first line, because for the dozens of submissions I've made to such journals I've never gotten more than a reject slip. Never a note of encouragement, nothing. (Oh, one exception is from C Michael Curtis, and I thank him for it.) But for the most part I feel these places are full or 80% full and only need to buy one or two "bingos" from the slush, and unlike Curtis they don't care about supporting or encouraging us unknowns and they also have the luxury of throwing back almost everything. In other words, our chances are close to zero and stand to remain that way.

rmellis said...

The no s.s. thing is just a convenience for editors, but it's a major drag to writers. These days, with email and easy and quick communication, there's no need to respect a magazine's wishes for exclusivity -- once a magazine likes a piece, it can find out right away whether it's still available. Trying to stop S.S. is a way for magazines to keep writers desperate, imho.

My husband had a big argument with C. Michael Curtis on a panel over this, but I still think we're right.

Agents should get exclusivity once they respond positively to a query, but it's also their responsibility to get right on it.

Anonymous said...

No simultaneous submission rules are bullshit. The previous commenter mentioned some rare exceptions where the magazine has a track record of effeciency and humanity so I would honor their no simultaneous submission policy, but in 90% of the cases, I ignore it.

Yes, I know academic journals don't have much staff. Yes, I know they don't have budgets. Yes, I know they work hard.

But still, my dream is to become the chair at a prestigious English department. And when one of these editors sends me his CV and is looking for a job, I'm going to respond: "Here at Harvard, we receive numerous worthy applicants. Regrettably, we are unable to provide detailed updates about the status of your job application. Our turnaround time is 1 year from submission. During that time, we ask that you do not submit your resume to other institutitons. After 1 year has passed, you may call our office to inquire about the status of your job application. However, if you are not ultimately selected to join our staff, we will return your resume if you have provided the appropriate self-addressed-stamped-envelope. Due to the overwhelming number of resumes we receive, we will be unable to provide any comments on your application."

Poor Struggler said...

I'll go one further: I continued to submit to other agents even when one of them requested an exclusive. What are the chances that two or more will make an offer? I told them, "Sure, you can have an exclusive," then I continued to send the ms out. And it worked out anyway...the ones who wanted exclusives passed, and I ended up with another agent. I refuse to sit around waiting.

timothy s. said...

You guys are too funny! I have to admit that I've always tried to honor the exclusive requests, but just the same have always felt that it was just another way to push me down: waiting six months for a tiny slip is so wrong. Especially, as rellis says, in the days of lightning quick email. It doesn't cost anything. But many cell phone plans have free long distance, anyway. Can't an editor pick up the phone or send an email? What are they doing in those offices, anyway? So unless an editor steps in to explain their side of the story, and give me a good reason to adhere to these guidelines, I'm going to simsub without fear from now on!

Dave Clapper said...

I agree almost completely with what's already been posted here, except that I do honor no sim sub rules... sort of... I just refuse to submit to those places that have those rules AND have a ridiculous turnaround time. It's completely disrespectful of editors to expect a writer to let them sit on their work for a year without anyone else being allowed to consider it.

bookfraud said...

for those publications at the very top of the heap, if you're a writer, you probably should abide by such a policy, lest you get burned. if the new yorker calls wanting to publish your story but you've already had it accepted by the paris review, you can kiss the new yorker bye-bye forever.

but as far as small litmags, it's a different story. it would be nice to think that as soon as one submits a story, it gets read, critiqued, and its fate addressed. since we all know this is not (and will never be) the case for 99 percent of litmags, a no simultaneous submissions policy is like telling a bunch of teenage boys to stop being horny. it just ain't gonna happen.

Dave Clapper said...

Almost totally off-topic: Bookfraud just reminded me of one of the funniest lines I've ever heard, by Roy Zimmerman, while introducing a song about abstinence-only education. "Abstinence-only education is like 'just-hold-it' potty-training."

Writer, Rejected said...

Yeah, because the New Yorker is always hounding me when I submit anything to the slush pile. They want my stories so bad. Last thing I need is to do something that gets me more limited access than I already have, which is zip.

Seth Fleisher said...

Funny you should mention. I posted on this topic over at www.SethFleisher.com last week: http://www.sethfleisher.com/home/2008/4/10/synchronicity.html.

I think we've pretty much got consensus.

Writer Reading said...

So boring when everyone agrees.

Suicidal Writer said...

Why would you submit to a journal if you don't agree with the guidelines? It's unprofessional.

rmellis said...

Yeah, I just HATE it when the NYer and the Paris Review both want my story!

Anonymous said...

Suicidal writer: Buy why not protest the policy and still submit to the journal? There are many fine institutions that have outmoded policies. Perhaps once we bring the bad policy to the attention of the lit mags, they'll abolish them. It's an American tradition after all.

Anonymous said...

If all publications behaved with diligence and honor, it would be one thing. As they don't, screw 'em. Take what you can get and reserve your middle finger to respond to any bleats.