A submission in the literary world is the act of giving a query letter, synopsis, proposal, manuscript, or piece of writing, such as a short story, poem, essay, or anthology etc. to an agent, publisher, organization, journal, or contest so that it can be considered or approved. Within this broad definition are four types of common submissions to consider and understand: exclusive submission, simultaneous submission, multiple submission, and call for submissions.
An exclusive submission is when a literary agent or publisher asks to be the only one reviewing your manuscript at the current time. This typically occurs after a request for the full manuscript so they have an appropriate opportunity to review your work, decide whether it is saleable, and if they will accept it.
A simultaneous submission is when a writer submits their work to more than one agent, publisher, or market at the same time. For example, if you’re seeking representation for a fantasy novel and you’ve researched ten different agents from different agencies then send your query to all ten, you are making simultaneous submissions. This is an acceptable practice, as many agents expect writers to do this.
Multiple submissions are submissions that include multiple pitches and/or manuscripts. To clarify, it does not mean submitting the same pitch or manuscript to multiple agents as defined above under simultaneous submissions, it is submitting different pitches for different pieces of work to the same agency. While some agents or publishers will accept multiple queries for different manuscripts, this practice is not very common among fiction novel submissions. It is, however, common for poets to submit bundles of three to five (and sometimes more) poems per submission.
A Call for Submissions is an invitation for writers to send in submissions of written work, following a set of guidelines set forth by the agent, publisher, or organization requesting the work.
So, we’ve squared away the different types of submissions, but what happens to your submission once it’s received? Unfortunately, it may end up in the dreaded slush pile that many agents and publishers acquire due to the overwhelming number of submissions they receive.
Whatever submission option you choose or to whatever agency, publisher, or organization you submit to, whether for representation, publication, or competition, make sure to follow their specific submission guidelines.