Freelance Writing Question

Suppose you mail out a manuscript and by some miracle, two different publications want to publish your work.

Do you have the final say whether you want them to print it or not? Or do you send out one manuscript at a time and wait for a rejection before trying a different one?

Any insight on how the entire process works would be appreciated.

The author has the final say, but if you send a manuscript to two markets, and they both accept it, you will never sell to either market again.

What you are describing are simultaneous submissions. They are almost universally frowned upon. You should never send out simultaneous submissions unless you send them solely to markets who specifically state in their guidelines that they take simultaneous submissions.

The proper procedure is to send the manuscripts out to one market at a time. While you are waiting, write a manuscript to send to a second market.

If you get caught sending simultaneous submissions and both sell, you are creating major problems. If you withdraw the manuscript, it upsets planning. There have even been times when authors withdrew a manuscript after the magazine had set it into type and scheduled it for publications. So the editor has to remake the issue, and the typesetting time was all wasted. That editor will not trust you again, so you can write that market off. The editor will also talk to the editor who published your manuscript, who will stop reading your work for fear you will pull the same trick.

There is a difference for nonfiction, since you’re usually sending a query. AFAIK, it’s generally acceptable to send multiple queries, but the article can only be used exclusively. If you get two requests, send the article to the first on you received; if they arrive the same day, send it to the better paying market. Since the editor is not spending time and money (he can still reject the finished article), there’s no problem if you say “no.” Once you send the requested article, though, the same rules apply as for fiction.

Some argue that no simultanous submissions slows the process. However, it actually keeps the process moving faster. If there are a thousand writers sending to ten magazines, each of those magazines would get 100 manuscripts. If, however, the writers were allowed to do simulatenous submissions, they will all send to the ten magazines at once, so each magazine would get 1000 manuscripts. This would slow response time to ten times what it is, since the editors would have to read ten time the number of manuscripts.

Quick answer: whoever pays you more.

Of course, it’s usually whoever tells you first. If you get the notices on the same day, then it’s up to you to decide, probably the more prestigious of the two, or, again, whoever pays you more.

You may also be able to get it published in both, but that’s highly unlikely (based on if they’re looking for first rights or not), especially if both will come out on the same week. Most magazines have too many submissions to reprint stuff like that though.

It is common practice to submit to more than one magazine at a time, but it’s typically protocol (and courtesy) to mention that you’re submitting to more than one magazine. Whether this increases your chances (of forcing a given magazine’s hand) are debatable, but read the guidelines for the magazines you’re submitting to, some disallow multiple submissions for preciesely that reason.

Also note that if you accept both offers, it’s likely that someone will find out and if both magazines only buy first rights, you’re screwed. Well, I don’t know if they’d actually litigate, but, you never know.

“Multiple queries” should be “simultenous queries.”

There is a separate issue of multiple submissions – several manuscripts to one market at the same time. These are perfectly acceptable – even encouraged – for poetry, but most other markets don’t like them. However, it will not poison your relationship with the editor if you do it – they’ll just tell you to stop.

Also, it’s sometimes considered multiple submissions is you send one manuscript, then send a second before you hear about the first. Not really a bit problem as long as there’s a reasonable amount of time. Still I know at least one editor that will not return the first submission until he reads the second, so it’s best to avoid this, too.

Do it all serially: one manuscript to one market at a time. Write a new story while waiting for an answer.

The entire post is extremely wrongheaded, but I’ll just concentrate on these points.

For fiction, yes, you should tell people you’re sending a simultaneous submission. This is a help, since it saves the editor the trouble of reading your manuscript. It is extremely rare for a fiction market to accept them.

And when they find out you’ve screwed them, you will never be published by that editor ever again. And editors talk – you may find yourself unable to publish anywhere.