Monday, April 13, 2009

Multiple Submissions

This question came up this last weekend at the conference and I thought I would share it with all of you. The writer asked about multiple submissions. She had discussed the idea that many writers have of "just keep submitting that manuscript and one of these days, that story will find a home." Is this true or not.

Well, I think statistically, we are talking about the idea of probable vs possible. Is it possible the manuscript will find a home? Sure. Probable? Not likely. And the answer is simple.

Successful writers target publishers and agents that their writing and personalities fit best. I have said this in the past but maybe it is time for a refresher. Just because you write historical does not mean that your writing fits at every house that accepts historicals. This does not simply deal with word count, this deals with voice.

Understanding this, when you are submitting to agents and editors, it is your job to "target" the best fits for your writing. In all likelyhood, your list will only involve 2 or 3 editors/agents. Sending out to all of the other editors/agents will only result in rejections.

There is another side not to this as well. You may submit to an editor or agent this will take your work but may not be the best fit for you. You will end up un-happy, or worse yet, run into additional problems down the line. Let me expain this one from an agents perspective.

I have had writers submit to me and tell me they have their work with another agent as well. That is understandable. The problem is when I have either asked for a full or discussed with them the idea of representation and then get the comment, "I said my work was with another agent and I want to hear from them first." What does that tell me? I was never in their top list. Eventually, I would assume they are not interested so I write them off. Then they contact me 8 months later to see if the offer is still there. Guess what? No way, even if they have a great new project. Why would I want to listen to them or represent them if they couldn't commit the first time? They have really ruined their chances and I would bet they have done this with other people too.

So, in answer to the question? Multiple submissions are OK as long as the submissions are targeted!



  1. I understand what you are saying but it's hard to target an agent who doesn't put themselves out there. I have sent two different MS to the agent I want and all I get back is a form rejection. how can you target them if you don't know what they want?:(

  2. Question:

    If a writer targets an agent for one MS (say it’s a Paranormal) but has another MS (Historical for arguments sake) that this agent doesn't 'traditionally' like to represent - do you recommend that the writer hold off to see what kind of response this first agent will give to their work prior to shooting the historical out to another agent? I mean, if an agent agrees to represent your work would they represent all of it? Or, only what they want to, leaving you free to find a different agent for the work that they turned down?

    I guess what I’m asking is: The agent that I took the time to target because I thought that he/she would be the best fit for my work and style, should have first opportunity at representing any and all of my work, right?

    And Em? I have a question for you, too.

    You say: You don't know what this agent wants.
    I say: So, why are you targeting them?

    More importantly, why do you want this agent - if they don't put themselves out there? (insert head scratch here)

  3. These days your lucky if an agent wants to see your work. To say that you wanted to wait to hear back from another agent you submitted to before you made a decision is just stupid.

  4. I'm with Anon on this one. If any agent wants to represent your work you're lucky!
    Good info Scott and a good reminder to continue to research before you send out.

  5. Babs: I’m sure you mean if any of the agents you specifically targeted, wanted to represent your work that would be fine. Not just any agent off an available list that you submitted to would do, right?

    And Anon: Stupid? How about shortsighted? Stupid is the act of turning an opportunity like that down - shortsighted is not having the presence of mind to understand the far reaching consequences of that unwise decision.

  6. That's a valid question. why indeed? All I can think to say is that she is the one I picked and now that I think about it there was no real good reason besides her being reputable. Hmmmmm?

  7. The stories just get worse and worse. "Rude" must be the new term for career-oriented. The earlier comment you made about the writer who hung up on you (!) as you tried to explain why her ms. was not acceptable, is certainly p---ing in her own well. More and uglier stories abound on the internet from agents-writers firing off obscene comments after receiving a rejection, even though the agent obviously has their name and address. Some writers making what sound like wild threats. Why are some people so frantic they will end any chance of having an agent consider their work in the future?
    From my end, the field has changed greatly. Some agents want "three page" marketing reports that detail the competiton and how their books are selling, they want "overnight sellers," and "a finished product I can pick up the phone and start selling." (What exactly do they do all day?)
    More and more will only consider your work if they met you at a conference, big bucks there, and they want you to have web sites, memberships in "groups that will commit to buying X numbers of your books," on and on. Most painful of all, the demand that Fiction (!) writers now have " a platform," is the final killer, and no amount of wasted time and money will suddenly get a writer a hot career with national visibility.
    For instance, historical fiction, my field. The last two HF books that got a lot of advance publicity were both written by National Public Radio personalities. As expected, they are wonderful writers, and have come up with interesting plots. Even more important, millions of people know their names and listen to them everyday. One book, (The Wet Nurse's Tale" hit 300 on the Amazon chart months before being due to be released.
    If you were an agent or publisher, whose book would you choose, known and loved by millions of potential buyers, or book two from Nobody from Nowhere, who will lucky to strongarm five relatives into buying the thing at the local B & N?
    I wouldn't think about it for one second. I would grab Book One from Known and Loved, and cry for more. Do a James Patterson! Hire young unknowns to take your outline and write the actual book for you, so you can have multiple books on the NYT bestseller list at once. Nothing wrong with it.
    And that is one reason why people are so frantic out there. The door is closing, vertical marketing is here to stay, and millions are realizing they have wasted a ton of time and money they can never recover.
    But it is nobody's fault. Certainly not that of the agents or the publishers. And being rude only ensures that more and more agents will refuse to look at outside work. Why should they? Who wants to deal with all these rude and ungracious writers? Not me either.
    More later. let me give someone else a chance here. If you started in the field years ago, it is very disheartening to see how things are going, and that doesn't even take into account all of the MFA's being cranked out to Nowheresville, the reporters being cut loose from failing papers, reportedly already one in four, who at least may have the critical "public platform," or the tens of thousands of retirees my university prof tells me are jamming the freelancing and Learn To Write Articles classes. Good luck, gang. Here comes everybody. I think the future for most of us is indeed "publishing and selling twenty books via POD. So sad, too bad.

  8. Right, Murphy!
    And Anon, things aren't all bad. It's tough out there but it will get better!

  9. Anon, that was pretty sad and pathetic. Your ship will come in. The race isn't always to the swift. The sky is the limit. Come on, buck up. We can write, can't we? If you can't get in the front door, try a window.

  10. Re: Murph's Question
    One Agent is standard and if you submit to two different Agent's you can ask for an exclusive read time line.

  11. Thanks Anon 6:41, but does this mean that one agent handles all your work collectively? Exclusively? And, let’s say if you have an agent who doesn't deal with a specific genre. You are still able to shop it around yourself, right? And if you found a home for that particular work then you could ask your agent to work out the deal points, right? Or, more's to the point, a writer should target an agent who likes every genre they write so they can represent all their work, well?
    Crap, did I just answer my own question?

  12. Murph: Yes. And I wouldn't hand anyone 15% -25% for doing nothing.

  13. Thanks, but not the answer I was looking for...