Feb 25, 2014
Part II: What the Simultaneous Submitter Needs to Know
For the first part of Zachary Martin's blogpost on simultaneous submissions, click here.
Is it hypocritical for the editor of a journal that charges an online reading fee to complain about "no sim sub" journals? Maybe. After all, a reading fee could also be accused of inverting the literary marketplace, in this case forcing writers to pay to have their work considered.
But writers have always had to shell out to submit their manuscripts—paper, printing, postage—as anyone who wants to find buyers for their work has to do. As long as the online reading fee is low, as it is and will remain at Gulf Coast, all it does is divert money that used to go to the Postal Service and instead sends it to places like Paypal and Submittable, sometimes with a little left over for the journal itself. At Gulf Coast, we've dedicated that extra income to increased honoraria for our contributing writers.
The writer pays nothing more than before online submissions managers came along. (Journals that charge exorbitant reading fees for regular submissions are another story altogether.) Because the literary marketplace is filled with, as I said, reciprocal relationships, it's also important that writers do their part. At the end of the day, if submitting in bulk and at random is a problem, the best solution is education. Writers need to be responsible simultaneous submitters.
That starts with becoming a member of the community of readers of literary journals. The world of independent and small press publishing—small as it sometimes seems—is too large and diverse for a single writer to purchase every journal they might want to submit to, but writers can and should pick a handful to subscribe to and read to stay up on what's happening in the community. They will find authors and journals they love, which will inform how and where they submit.
Writers also shouldn't submit the same manuscript to twenty journals at a time. Four or five at a time will do, maybe waiting until they've heard back from the majority of them before sending the manuscript to another four or five journals. When simultaneously submitting, be honest and make note of it in the cover letter. My own view is that doing so can only speed the decision-making process, can only tell the editors that the clock is ticking and they better take this piece before some other journal takes it. When it is taken, writers need to immediately notify the other journals (doing so requires writers to keep an accurate and up-to-date list of where it was submitted).
Both the "bulk" submitter and the "no sim sub" journal seem gripped by a mutual paranoia. The bulk submitter thinks that journals aren't going to give their submission the reading it deserves, so they have to cast an impossibly wide net; the "no sim sub" journal thinks that submitters aren't giving their journal the consideration it deserves, and making bad submissions decisions as a result. But in the world of small press publishing, where the only way to stay sane is to write, edit, and publish for a coterie of lovers of indie lit, this paranoia is unfounded. Let's get to the point where submissions policies and practices reflect that.