What, you may ask, is a “sim,” and how does, or would, one sub or not sub it?
If this were one of those “word association” tests, some people might immediately think of a simulated human being, or as they are referred to in some quadrants, synthetic humans (AKA Synths). Androids, robots, cyborgs, and a veritable cornucopia of additional beings may also come to mind. Another person, perhaps one with a military background or prone to reading—or viewing—a variety of genres, might begin to visualize a some sort of submarine releasing a small—or smaller—pod into the water. Still others may consider the word, “simulacra,” and begin to have nightmares that they’re still in grad school, surrounded by postmodern theorists expounding mutually-exclusive, and yet strangely-similar positions, on the existence and/or nonexistence of the author.
Of course, all of the above is just a bit of fun. You and I both know that a “simsub” is a “simultaneous submission.” Well, at least I know now…When I first began to focus on really getting published (as opposed to just simulating the action, i.e., actually sending work out), I had no idea what it meant. I was pretty darn embarrassed, too, when someone explained it to me like I was some kind of neophyte or something, which I was, but jeez, did they have to make so much fun of me?
To add further embarrassment to the situation, after this well-meaning friend explained what simsubbing was, I expressed genuine confusion. Why would someone send the same poem, story, or article out to multiple publications?
After the laughter died down again, my friend said something like: “your chances of getting that piece picked up by all—if any—of those publications is about nil. And if it does happen, then you decide which publication is more reputable, which one pays better, and so forth, then send a ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter.”
That didn’t set well with me then, and I admit to it still not sitting well with me now. However, I do know quite a few people who engage in this practice, and the law of averages actually does seem to apply. The only time I’ve done this myself has been an accident (Yes, I admit to occasionally keeping ah-er-ah, bad, I mean, incomplete, records…)
While many publishers and/or editors will say, “Don’t do it!” there are others who will say: “If you do it, don’t tell us.” I’ve actually seen a few writers’ guidelines that address it with a “we know you’re going to do it, so the least you can do is let us know if it’s accepted elsewhere.” And yes, there are those who say, “ok, go ahead,” as if it’s expected. I actually know a few who will put you on a very special list if they discover you’ve simsubbed.
And trust me, you don’t want to be on that list.
As always, there are variations on this theme, so why all the hoopla?
Well, there are several obvious reasons, and a few that may not be as obvious. Consider the following gleaned from a few sources that preferred to remain anonymous (NOTE: I’ve taken the liberty of embellishing for entertainment value.):
- If you didn’t intend it for us, then why did you send it to us?
- What? You’re pulling that poem I love most of all, the poem that I was going to publish, the poem that is already mocked-up and ready-for-print? How could you?!
- This is the third time you’ve done this. . .Please don’t do it again.
- It’s already gone-to-print—and no, we’re not going to yank the run unless you’re footing the bill!
- We thought you liked us. Please tell us that this was accidental, that you really didn’t intend to create all this EXTRA WORK for us…
Why don’t I simsub? For one, I like to keep things moving. When I first began to submit my work, I would send out a poem or a short story, wait for weeks, sometimes months, for a response. It’s not that I didn’t write during these extended waiting periods, but I didn’t send out much else.
I don’t remember when it finally dawned on me. No doubt one of my many mentors took me aside, told me to “keep it flowing!”
As of this writing, I’m waiting to hear back on two “essays,” eighteen short stories, and nineteen poems. There may be a few more I’ve missed (That record thing again. . .). I write, edit, and revise every day, so there’s always something to send out – especially with all those rejections. I keep it fluid (It helps being a water sign. . .). There are times when I kick myself for sending something to one publication when it might be a better fit for another, but if it’s accepted, I rejoice just the same. After all, even though I write because I love and need to write, I also do it to get published.
As an editor, I don’t want simsubs for the some of the reasons cited above. Okay, for all the reasons cited above. Perhaps a solution for those who can’t fight the urge to simsub is to focus on creating several ready-to-send-out poems, short stories, articles, novels, and screen plays at a time. I’m sure that this is nothing new to you, but the more work you have in orbit, the better odds you have for pinging a landing dock.
Another point that bears repeating is that when a publication doesn’t mention simsubs, it’s not necessarily a green light to do so. I know I want to get in good with editors. I want them to like me. I want them to need me. I want to know what makes them happy because happy editors can really make a poet’s–or any other type of writer’s— life that much better.
When you get-in-good with editors, they may not only publish you, but hire you to be an editor, too.
Then you get to say: “ABSOLUTELY NO SIMSUBS!” With your award-winning smile. . .
This article, which has been slightly edited for errors, appears in my book, Poet’s Workshop – and Beyond, available from Alban Lake Publishing.