Call for Submissions

Simultaneous Submissions: A Two-Way Street – guest blog post by the editors of Empty Sink Publishing

For us, the decision not to accept simultaneous submissions was born out of necessity. When we started Empty Sink Publishing in 2013, we accepted simultaneous submissions, but by the fifth issue, we had no choice but to change our policy--we had lost so many man-hours on submissions that we only learned were accepted elsewhere after we sent an acceptance, that we were left with no other recourse. While we did have some submitters who were good about letting us know when their submission was accepted elsewhere, sadly, we found they represented the minority. Since the staff at Empty Sink Publishing also submits their own works to other publications, we can certainly sympathize with the frustration of a writer or artist trying to get exposure for their works and definitely appreciate the amount of effort that requires. However, the publication process is a two-way street, and guidelines like this one are implemented with good reason.

esp1Simultaneous submissions are a tool that all authors should use when appropriate. Unfortunately, some don’t use them responsibly, which can cause problems for editors of small magazines like Empty Sink Publishing. Since our work is a labor of love and done in addition to our day jobs, we often don’t have the time or staff available to read submissions and then find they have been accepted elsewhere. In our experience, many simultaneous submitters do not alert the other places where their work is submitted immediately after it is accepted. The Review Review has an excellent article on the etiquette of simultaneous submissions: “The Savvy Writer's Guide to Simultaneous Submissions.”

What ends up happening is that small publications like ours invest their time in these pieces, only to find out all of that effort was in vain; additionally, this depletes time that could have been spent on the works of other potential contributors, which is unfair to them.

The policy of not accepting simultaneous submissions is not done out of disdain towards submitters or a wanton demonstration of power, but rather a way to ensure that our publication is able to meet the needs of as many potential contributors as possible, as well as enable smooth operation in the selection process. In fact, it is not uncommon for publications to not accept simultaneous submissions.  Poets & Writers indicates which literary magazines do and don’t accept simultaneous submissions in their listings.

When you submit your works to a magazine or journal, be sure to read the submissions guidelines, and if simultaneous submissions are not allowed and that does not work for you, seek out another publication that does accept them--there are plenty of venues out there to choose from. New Pages is another great source for lit mag listings.

Keep writing and creating, and don't get discouraged! Remember: publication policies are in place for the benefit of both the editors and contributors, and when those two are in balance, success is achieved for all parties involved.

Empty Sink Publishing submissions guidelines can be found at:

By: Adam M. Dubbin and E. Branden Hart 


Empty Sink Publishing submission guidelines

DEADLINE: Always open


NOTES: They do not accept simultaneous submissions

FORMS: Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, visual/mixed media, book reviews, video media

PAYMENT: None, however, “We reciprocate by providing our contributors with the very best social media and guerrilla-marketing support a small publication can provide. Our track-record so far has been humblingly successful.”

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11 replies »

  1. I have worked for both a traditional NYC publisher for many years as well as been a writer submitting to magazines and small presses. I work very hard to create and polish my stories to a professional level prior to submission. As such, I am not pumping out stories on a daily basis. To send them off and have them sit for six months and some times more before being rejected, if they are rejected, is a nightmare. Having worked at a publisher as my day job, I know that we had enough manuscripts that were acceptable for publication that if we had to cross one off the list and move on to the next because it was accepted elsewhere, it didn’t exactly bring the presses to a screeching halt.

    • Aaron, you make some good points, especially in regards to the waiting period. What we have done at ESP is brought in a dedicated fiction editor. In doing so, we’ve reduced the turnaround time on those to less than two months, and often within a month of submission. Like we mentioned in the article, we’re also aspiring writers and artists, and we know how it feels on the other side of the stick, so we aspire to make things work for our editors and contributors as best as possible. And on your last point, we mentioned that ESP is not our primary jobs, so while having submission yanked from under us did not prevent us from publishing any past issues, it certainly wreaked havoc on our schedules.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  2. Dear Trish,

    The problem with withdrawing specific poems in a submission is that way too often the editors offer no easy way to make a partial withdrawal. On Submittable, it is often all or nothing, so writers tend to err on the side of caution, not wanting all of their poems taken out of the running. And every editor/lit mag has a different way of withdrawing submitted work. I know I really try to let them know if a poem of mine has been accepted elsewhere, but when I have to spend a lot of time trying to find out how and where they want the poem removed, and risk having to withdraw an entire submission, I tend to give up in frustration. Perhaps if there were a standard way to withdraw work it might make for a better “two-way street."

    Warm Regards, Alexis

    Alexis Rhone Fancher, poet, and Poetry Editor of Cultural Weekly.


    • Thank you for your comments! I agree, this can be tricky. For the lit mags where it isn’t clear or whom accept one file with all the submissions in it, I often email them and request the single piece to be removed from consideration. In most cases, I receive a kind email back, congratulating me on the success of the piece. I do see how this can be frustrating for writers. Submission guidelines in general vary so much from journal to journal, it can be difficult to navigate the many rules. For me, I’d rather be able to send to several journals and pull pieces accepted elsewhere, then only be able to submit to one journal at a time.

  3. I have just begun to do simultaneous submissions, and I keep track of where I send the poems, and if a poem gets published that I sent out to other places I rush home to inform all the other publishers as fast as I can. I always feel a bit bad when I have to write to them that I have to remove a poem, but I would feel much worse if they wanted a poem and I forgot to tell them it was taken already. I think simultaneous submissions are a very good thing, if handled responsibly. But mistakes will be made. I once submitted a simultaneous submission to a publisher who HATES them. Though I withdrew the poem as fast as I learned the error (long before the other publisher would have had a chance to review it) and apologized profusely to the first publisher for my error, the mistake clearly offended her and her silence in words and in print indicates she will have nothing more to do with me.

    • Hi Robin! Always great to hear from you. I do the exact same thing and also had to pull a submission from a place I didn’t realize until after that they didn’t accept simultaneous work. I didn’t hear from them either, but I wouldn’t be afraid to submit again. My guess is, they are busy enough they won’t reply unless there is a specific question. Thanks for commenting!

    • Hi Robin! So, you’re clearly very fastidious. You even “apologized profusely,” well in advance of any possible conflict. I appreciate that, your attitude, your sweetness. But what did it get you? In the case of the lady publisher you mentioned at the end of your post, nothing but icy hauteur and surpassing arrogance. How can she take offense at an honest error honestly corrected? Because she mistakes her place in this universe. Is she not human, and likewise prone to mistakes? This was a tempest in a tea pot. And here you were, going to all that trouble to be a good scout. People in all professions, certainly not just editors, can suffer from an enlarged sense of their importance. The subject editor swells those ranks. Let it go. You’re better than she is. By leagues.

  4. Your position is stated well and reasonably. I get it. You speak of the crush of other work, and it must be almost debilitating. Yet you should realize that the notion’s a two-way street. It is extremely difficult for a practicing, active poet (even one without a day job) to keep track of the individual components of submissions. Of late I have been submitting a great many pieces which have been polished for years. Years. The submission process is onerous for me; selections of poems aren’t just shot off into the ozone. To make a submission, I find that I must locate a suitable publication, review it at a primary level, make judgments about its aesthetics, dig deeper into the work that it has historically chosen — this alone can take a good deal of time, albeit enjoyable time — and sometimes research its editorial staff. If an issue is themed, the proper poems have to be chosen; if not, the selection needs to reflect the taste of the publication. Each submission therefore represents a delicate and time-consuming process . . . at least for me. I can’t speak for others. So let me tell you, after months have gone by, and poems have been simultaneously submitted here and there and god knows where, the acceptances present a kind of clerical challenge. Has this poem gone anywhere else? Is it still pending? Oh, you say, just get a spreadsheet and keep records. Well, I’ve tried that. And I find that there is significant slippage in the process. In other words, on top of everything else, it’s really hard for a writer who is submitting in significant numbers to effectively track where everything has gone, much less how those pieces have been received. I don’t have a secretary, and I am a lousy one. A decent poet, sometimes, but a bad clerk, ever and always. I fully expect that one day I will get multiple acceptances on some piece or other, and then I’ll have to disappoint someone. I know this, and I am sorry. But that disappointed person has to understand that generating a letter of prior acceptance upon receipt of good news is more than this poet is capable of. In fact — and here is the truly heretical part — I would say that if you like a poem, just print it. Or pixel it. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if it has appeared, or will be appearing, somewhere else. If the poem is good enough to fight its way to the top of the pile, let it enjoy the sunlight, the exposure. It’s not as if the world will come down if it turns out that somewhere else in this vast cosmos someone else shared your point of view and likewise decided that the poem was worthy of publication. Honestly, it’s not as though exposure in any journal, not even the most elite, results in a whole lot of readership for any particular poem. Poems take years to craft and polish. Let them find homes where they will. My two cents.

    • Bruce, thank you so much for your detailed comments. The submission process can indeed be daunting and take a great deal of work! I’ve found my Duotrope membership to be invaluable as a way to track submissions, much better than a spreadsheet, although I have been known to use both :). Since many literary magazines and other publications have specific rights they adhere to, it could be a high risk for lit mags to print something without proper acknowledgment, but there are several places who do accept reprints. My list of those is here: Again, thank you so much for adding to this conversation!

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