Ilana Gershon asked seven editors for their insights on questions that authors commonly ask. Five are press editors (Berghahn, Chicago, Indiana, Princeton, Stanford) and two are series editors. This month’s column explores the following question:
Many authors I know submit to more than one press at a time—is there a way to handle doing this that won’t offend you?
Fred Appel: It’s important to be honest and transparent in such matters. An acquisition editor who is contemplating whether to send a manuscript out for peer review needs to know whether that same manuscript is already out for review at another publisher. Or whether that the author is in contact with another publishing house and discussing the prospect of peer review with that other book publisher. An acquiring editor who is aware of these vital matters is in a position to make an informed decision about whether to pursue the project under these circumstances.
Jennika Baines: I think this is a great question and it’s important to unpack some of the components of it. First, let’s be clear on what’s being submitted. You should submit a proposal—not an invited manuscript—to more than one press at a time. It’s in an author’s best interest to contact the presses that publish in their field to see which is the best fit for them and their work. You can find a subject grid for all university presses at this website: http://www.aupresses.org/images/stories/documents/aaupsubjectgrid2017.pdf .
Be sure to tailor your proposal to each press. Mention books in their list which are similar to yours so you can help your editor see how your book fits. Then in either your cover letter or your email to the editor, just let them know that you’re also sending proposals to other presses as well. If you have an invitation from one press but haven’t heard yet from your first choice, get in touch with the editor at that press to let them know the situation. This might spur them to get you a response more quickly.
Once a press has invited a full manuscript for review and you decide to send it to them, you should work only with that one press. That’s important! Presses have limited resources, and at this point they’re investing these limited resources in your work because they believe in it. Don’t take advantage of this.
Berghahn Books: It is not about offense—it is about the time it takes to consider a project (even at the proposal stage) and to undertake the review process that makes it unfair for those authors who are waiting their turn. And imagine how annoyed a reviewer is to be asked by multiple presses to review the same manuscript (this is sometimes how we find out about simultaneous submissions!). It is hard enough to get reviewers in the first place. Above all, it is important that you select a publisher for the right reasons to foster mutual respect—your manuscript should fit well into their program, because of a subfield or a series, so that you know that it has a good home.
Dominic Boyer: You can submit proposals to as many presses as you want to without offending anyone. But once a press has agreed to send your manuscript out for review, and you have agreed to let them do so, unless you have explicit permission from your editor (and no editor in their right mind would grant that permission), you should not ask another press to review the manuscript. You would be wasting not only the editors’ time but also the reviewers’ time, and people will (rightly) be offended. So pick your lane. But if you find that your editor isn’t responsive or sticking to a mutually agreed upon timetable, you are entirely within your rights to take your work to another publisher.
Alessandro Duranti: I would not be offended, but I would like to know because it takes work to review a manuscript or convince others to do it.
Michelle Lipinski: Before you start worrying about offending me, please consider whether or not simultaneous review is the right decision for you. Not only are you asking two presses to put in the effort to peer review your project, you are also asking a greater number of colleagues and peers to put in the effort to peer review your project. Peer reviewers dedicate their time and effort because they assume their feedback will be put towards something that is ultimately published at the press that asks them to review.
And simultaneous submission usually takes longer than an exclusive submission. You will have to wait for two sets of peer reviewers, two discussions of revision plans, and two editorial boards. And with an exclusive review, I’m happy to provide developmental comments on the project at an early stage. With simultaneous review, I would not be likely to offer that type of feedback until after a contract is signed.
Besides that, no press wants to be the “safety school.” My best advice is to only consider simultaneous submission when you are truly torn about which press is the best home for your book.
If you do decide to go forward with more than one press, the best way to handle simultaneous review without offending anyone is to be transparent. The more candor the better. And best practice dictates that you give both presses the opportunity to provide timely feedback, and to make a contract offer (if it comes to that), before you make a final decision.
Priya Nelson: Yes, it’s simple. Do it honestly. It’s stunning (but thankfully rare) to find out late in the process that an author has committed to a press without informing an editor at another publishing house. It is painful to recognize, since every project is unique, that all judgment is comparative. But when an editor takes on a project, it usually means she is setting aside another promising work to do so. An editor should be given the courtesy of making an informed decision about whether she is willing to risk losing a book even after investing time and resources into review. With that said, editors are generally quite open and generous on the question of double submission. If we want a book, we want it. And we are willing to work for it. Triple submission, on the other hand, seems like a waste of everyone’s time. I wouldn’t recommend that.
Fred Appel is executive editor and acquisitions editor for anthropology and religion at Princeton University Press.
Jennika Baines is an acquisitions editor at Indiana University Press, who acquires books in global and international studies, anthropology, Middle East studies, and Russian and East European studies.
Berghahn Books—answers were co-authored by Miriam Berghahn, Vivian Berghahn, and Chris Chappell, all press editors at Berghahn.
Dominic Boyer is a professor at Rice University and edits a series for Cornell University Press, Expertise: Cultures and Technologies of Knowledge.
Alessandro Duranti is a professor at UCLA and the series editor for the Oxford Series in the Anthropology of Language.
Michelle Lipinski is an editor at Stanford University Press who acquires books for their anthropology and law lists.
Priya Nelson is an editor at the University of Chicago Press where she acquires books in anthropology and history.
Cite as: Gershon, Ilana. 2018. “Multiple Press Submission.” Anthropology News website, October 2, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.894