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Ask Daphne! About “multiple” or “simultaneous” submissions

PlaytimeA busy week for questions here at KT Literary! Today’s comes from Hope, who writes:

I’ve been polishing my MS for 6 months now and finally got up the nerve to start querying last night. I decided to start with a small batch, a couple of my top tier dream agents, and a couple with less experience but who sounded really compatible with my style and genre. While reviewing the submission guidelines for the first house I was querying I ran across this line:

“You are free to submit to agents at other agencies at the same time, but it is a professional courtesy to let us know, up front, that yours is a multiple submission.”

So, wanting to be courteous, I dutifully noted in my query letter that mine was a “multiple submission.” In the next 4 query letters I sent out I included that line, because I wanted to continue being professional and courteous. Then on my 6th query I went to review that agent’s submission guidelines and found this little gem:

“Multiple submissions will not be accepted — if you submit to more than one agent [at our agency], your materials will be discarded.”

And then I got an instant migraine. I know that querying more than one agent at the same agency is a big no no. I would never ever do it. And now this agency is using the term “multiple submission” to designate said heinous crime. And I just sent out five query letters using that term. But the first agency uses that term to indicate querying multiple agents in DIFFERENT agencies.

So now I’m afraid I just possibly screwed myself on several agents since I don’t know how they define “multiple submissions.” And I don’t know if I should switch to using the term “simultaneous submissions” or just not say anything at all as other websites indicate that most agents assume you are querying more than one agent at once anyways.

Please help!!

First of all, take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world, I promise. To be perfectly frank, most agencies assume you’re submitting to multiple agents at the same time, at least among the agents I’ve polled recently. Now, if you should choose to submit exclusively, then I think it’s important to call that to the agent’s attention as obviously as possible. As for the agent that refers to “multiple submissions” as those within his own agency, I’d have just added a note to your query for that specific agency that he was the only agent at [agency] to whom you’re sending your material.

Does that help?

Photo above by Flickr user Andy Wilson, used under a Creative Commons license. For more great examples of this style of photography, search Flickr for the tag “multiplicity.”

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