And now for the infallible opinion of a hack…
You’ll often hear authors of famous works say that their first story was rejected a zillion times. Here’s one, Hank:
“The script for Rocky was rejected over a hundred times.”
There are too many of these stories for them to all be lies. Let’s imagine the Rocky myth is true. How would you get a manuscript rejected a hundred times (before your 90th birthday) without simultaneous submissions?
I can’t think of any possible way.
It takes at least three months to get a rejection slip from an agent or editor. That’s twenty-five years! (Three months x 100 rejections = 300 months = 25 years.)
I’ve had agents take six months to reject a query letter. That would take 50 years for a hundred rejections.
Either Sylvester Stallone and many other successful writers sent their first works to hoards of agents and editors simultaneously, or we’ve all been wrong about UFO’s.
According to some sources, the majority of surveyed Americans admit they believe in UFO’s. But you don’t personally know anyone who admits they think UFO’s are real, do you? I don’t.
I think UFO’s are real, but I won’t admit it.
The same thing goes on with successful authors. It must! Before success, they sent simultaneous submissions to truckloads of agents and editors, regardless of the ubiquitous “No Simultaneous Submission” notices. And after they got famous, they denied their actions, or just refused to say anything about it.
But they would probably come clean on an anonymous survey, same as the rest of us do with regard to UFO’s. Huh?
Recently I wrote an email to an author and asked if perhaps some successful authors didn’t secretly break the rules against simultaneous submissions.
His response was terse and implied that I was a lower form of life – and incidentally, one who had misspelled “query.” He ranted to the effect that only an idiot would think there is a conspiracy “with secret handshakes” going on among successful authors.
I’ll admit I’m an idiot, but still…
I asked him if he’d perhaps gotten out of bed on the wrong side. I referred to him as a hot-shot, and advised him not to write back to me in the future.
But he did. He’s a better man that I am, it would seem.
His tone was kinder and not at all self-righteous. He said something like, “Let me put it this way, the agents and editors prefer that you don’t do it.”
“Wink-nod” was written between the lines, I thought.
When you hunt for an agent or editor, it’s sales work. Selling is a numbers game: Only a tiny percent of potential customers actually buy, but if you can put your product in front of a few million of them, you’ll probably sell something.
Would any rational salesperson give exclusivity to one disinterested customer at a time? And wait three months for the near-certain rejection of the product?
No chance in hell.
The whole idea is ridiculous, except to fiction writers. We’re a special kind of stupid. Morally above the whole money thing. If you threaten to call us a mean name, like “whore,” we’ll try to convince ourselves that we don’t care about money. We’re artists. We’ll prove it and starve.
Well, I’ll admit there is something about writing fiction that feels transcendent, beyond normal life. But there’s nothing inherently wonderful about working hard and remaining poor.
When I finish the novel I’m working on, I’m going to find some simple variant of “simultaneous submissions” and do a credible sales job, whether the agents and editors like it or not. I’m too old to wait for the continental shelves to shift.
Nevertheless, I do apologize in advance for the terrible inconvenience I’ll be causing those nice people behind the desks who reject thousands of novels each year without reading them. I’m sorry, fellers.
In the final analysis, what’s more likely to sink your writing career…
Two competing agents who love your novel but decide to reject it because they’ve magically contacted each other at the precise moment necessary to discover you’ve committed the heinous crime of simultaneous submissions…
or Alzheimer’s Disease?
M. Talmage Moorehead
Update: Since writing this I’ve been told by a traditionally published author that simultaneous submissions are common among successful authors, at least on first novels.