If you’ve submitted stories to publishers or agents, you’ve probably seen a few places that mention exclusive submissions. Let’s go over what that means!

Exclusive Submissions

Now and then you’ll see a publisher asking for exclusive submissions only or no simultaneous submissions. They mean the same thing. But what do they mean?

  • It means they do not want you to submit anywhere else until you get a response from them. But…
  • It is completely OK to submit to other places after they have rejected you.
  • It’s also completely OK to submit a piece that has been submitted elsewhere–just as long as all the places you’ve submitted to have already rejected it.

So why would someone ask for exclusivity? Basically, they want to know that they have a few weeks (or months) to read your piece, and you won’t run off and sell it somewhere else while they’re doing that. They don’t want to run the risk of reading something, falling in love with it, then having you go, “Hey, sorry! Someone else wants to buy it, so I’m going with them!”

And, on the other side…

Simultaneous submissions are, as you have probably guessed, the exact opposite of exclusive submissions: it’s a submission you send out to many places at the same time. For some things (like queries), this is the norm.

And now that you know what exclusivity is, there are a few things you should keep in mind!

Don’t send exclusive submissions if the publisher or agent doesn’t ask for them.

Well, OK. You can submit whatever you want however you want, but if an agent or publisher doesn’t want exclusives, don’t tell them that you’re exclusively submitting to them as a favor.

Some authors think this might sound flattering–“I respect you so much that I want to give you the first right of refusal!” But believe me: it doesn’t. At the very best, it just sounds a little… weird. (I mean, you do know that the majority of agents don’t ask for exclusive queries, right?)

But in a worst-case scenario, it can sound like you’re pressuring them. After all, you’re telling this person that they’re getting super special exclusive treatment (which they didn’t ask for), and that you’re putting this project on hold while you wait for a response. Even if you don’t say anything else, there’s an implication that you’re pressuring them for a timely or meaningful response.

And if this person doesn’t even want exclusive submissions, what do you think they’re going to do? Change their process for you? Give you special attention? Again, believe me: they’re not.

So don’t do it. It’s not going to help you.

Agent queries shouldn’t be exclusive.

It’s considered bad form for an agent to request exclusivity at the querying stage. You can–and should–send queries to several agents at a time.

(This is why you’ll occasionally run into agents explicitly saying “We do not ask for exclusive queries.” They’re just confirming that they’re following common industry practices. It’s the same thing as when agents ensure you that they absolutely, positively, don’t charge authors fees for anything.)

Agents may ask for exclusivity if they ask to read your full manuscript. If they do, they should make it clear when they request it. But at the querying stage? No.

However, short fiction markets very often request exclusivity.

It’s very common for short fiction markets to want exclusive submissions. But at the same time, that’s not always the case–some are OK with it, although they usually want you to tell them ASAP if someone else offers to publish it.  Keep track of who wants what, or use a database tool like Duotrope or Submission Grinder that tracks that for you.

In the end, the rule’s always the same: read everyone’s submission requirements.

That’s it. Read the submission requirements. If someone wants an exclusive submission, they’ll tell you. And if they don’t say anything about exclusivity or simultaneous submissions, it’s probably fine to submit that piece elsewhere.

Happy submitting!