Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Simultaneous Submissions and Dangling Shoestrings

Hi. I'd like to know when it is ok to submit poetry that has been published in book form. In other words, after my book is published by a publishing company, may I submit poems from that book to journals? My other question concerns editors and their strict policies. I have sent my work to journals and have never heard back one way or the other. Yet they don't want simultaneous submissions. Then when I query as to the status they don't answer that either. What right do editors have to say they don't want simultaneous submissions when they treat writers like this? And why can't a poem or story be published in more than one journal anyway?

Frustrated Writer --

Dear Frustrated Writer,

Dead Beat hears you. With regards to submitting poetry already published in book form, the simple but unhelpful answer is that it all depends on your contract. Generally speaking once the poem is published in book form other periodicals would not be interested in it anyway. If an anthology was, then once again, generally, they would seek permission from the publisher.

Here’s Dead Beat’s take. If the poem is already in book form why would you wish to publish it in a magazine? Send them something fresh, another publishing credit to your name.

As for simultaneous submissions - that old bug bear - Dead Beat respects the right of a publisher/editor to insist against this, but that doesn’t mean he has any high regard for any such insistence. In fact in Ireland where Dead Beat originates we have in our Irish language a specific Irish word for ’no simultaneous submissions’ going back to the days of the Bardic tradition - ‘Codswallop’.

Let’s start with publishers of books who insist they don’t want simultaneous submissions - while there may be a practical publishing reason for this (that they may give time in considering a submission that ultimately will go elsewhere) all Dead Beat can say is, ‘so be it.’ Some years back I sent a collection of stories to a publishing house who insisted this way. They took over twelve months to respond. You may have to send to twenty publishers with a fine book of stories to have any success. Do the math. Dead Beat doddering down the road with his age old manuscript under his arthritic arm! From the writer’s point of view this is simply not possible. The practicalities of publishing mean that it can take a long time for publishers to respond to the writer, we can give them this, but then to add the ‘no simultaneous submission’ clause is to give nothing in return.

I feel the same about magazines etc. Now not all publishers or magazine editors are so slow in responding but even the fastest take a substantial quantity of time.

So here’s the choice. Send only to publishers without this stipulation or ignore the ‘codswallop’ and say nothing.

What’s the likelihood of being accepted by two magazines or publishers anyway? What’s the odds of being accepted by one? And even if you were, how difficult is to say you no longer wish to be published there ( but say it politely of course, and don’t mention Dead Beat’s name)?

What about agents? Do they only bring your book to the attention of one publisher? Hmm!

One thing though, Dead Beat has huge respect for most publishers and editors, especially the independent presses. As writers we sometimes do not appreciate the difficulties of operating on a shoestring, so we must give them some leeway. But as publishers they must respect that writers are operating on a shoestring also, sometimes without a shoe to go along.

Dead Beat urges us to unite and dangle our shoestrings together.

Contact Dead beat through the comments box with any questions


Anonymous said...

Dead Beat, how do you differentiate between Autobiography and Memoir

Anonymous said...

Dear Dead Beat,

I'm in literary agony. I've submitted my manuscript (partial) to several publishers in January and the rejection letters are trickling in. Two pubs requested a full and one sent it back this spring. The other still has it.

I rocket between obsessing about the book, to feeling utterly bereft, to imagining a positive outcome that fuels me for awhile. I've started writing a new book and I write for a paper so my obsessing hasn't stopped me writing--but what to do? Now I know why so many writers drink.

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