Submission Habits

As I got into the habit of doing submissions, I would find that I worked best with a ‘cluster’ habit, sending out perhaps two, then waiting about ten days or a fortnight before attempting a fresh pair. If you find it easier to work more systematically, I suggest aiming to do three submissions a month, or one a week.

No matter what their published guidelines may indicate, no agency nowadays seriously expects us to submit to only one agency at a time. At that rate, with an average response time of two months for each submission, we would only manage about six submissions a year, and if our ambition only reaches that far, we are unlikely to progress, unless our research into each agency or publisher is exhaustive and encompasses meetings, working breakfasts, networking within the industry… If you have the contacts, lucky you.

Of course, we will never confess, “Yours is the seventh agency I have applied to today.” If an agent likes what we have sent, they will get back to us quickly. Meantime, simply do what feels most comfortable, and maintain a diplomatic silence. You, as much as the next person, have every right to see yourself as a professional running your own business, so don’t waste time with pangs of conscience. Keep it simple and keep your options open. Discretion is the key.


With fewer traditional avenues to explore, it becomes increasingly important to research our available options carefully. There is a considerable risk that we blow our chances by being too enthusiastic, too soon: it is a pity that, in the youth of our enthusiasm, we will feel a pressing need to send out our precious papers to our most promising leads far too early, before our writing has been tempered by experience. If you read no further, at least let me suggest that you should leave your most promising possibilities and matches for later. Wait at least a year – and in the meantime practise submitting – until you have what you believe is your best package. It is a rare agent or publisher who relishes the prospect of rejecting a manuscript twice.

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