Is it permissible to contact more than one agent or editor at a time? Certainly . . . unless an agent/editor posts that he or she requires exclusive submissions. So read and follow each agent and editor’s submission guidelines.
To hear back from submissions
can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more. The most common
response time is around ninety days. I don’t follow up on any of my
submissions until ninety days have passed.
If authors can submit to only
one agent/editor at a time then have to wait a minimum of ninety days,
it would take forever to find a place for our work. Editors and agents
know that and understand simultaneous submissions are necessary. On
those occasions when I am dealing with an exclusive read, I will wait a
definite period of time, not to exceed six weeks.
We must observe some courtesy
rules with simultaneous submissions. First, submissions should never be
made to more than one person in the same agency or publishing house at
a time. That can cause problems.
Submissions should be personally
addressed, regardless of how many agents/editors we submit to. Many
agents and editors believe that if the author does not pay them the
courtesy of personally addressing the submission, they don’t owe the
author the courtesy of a personal response.
“Dear Sir or Madame” letters
are generally regarded by editors and agents the equivalent to “Dear
Occupant.” What do you do with your occupant mail? We do too.
Submissions with dozens of email
addresses showing in the TO box tend to be regarded as spam. Recipients
will look at the list and likely think, “Well, somebody will answer
them.” Yet nobody does. Dozens of rejections by omission occur just
because the author was too lazy to individually address them.
Back to the submission
guidelines: I did a survey of agents and editors a while back for an
“editor and agent pet peeves” course that Linda Glaz and I offer at
conferences. The number one pet peeve was not following the submission
guidelines. A number of things in submissions can be a problem, but
most of them can be avoided by looking up and following those
guidelines when making a submission.
Can more than one agent or
editor be contacted at a time? Absolutely, as long as we are smart and
courteous. And in looking at those guidelines, please note that some
agents/editors want to be informed if it is a simultaneous submission.
Most of us just assume that it is.