Question: Can an author approach more than one publisher at the same time? -MR
Answer: This is an interesting question and one which has caused much discussion even in our office!
In some cases, publishers will request that you only approach one at a time, but this isn’t always enforced in every subject or publisher. Some editors I’ve heard will not consider a project if it has been sent to multiple publishers – the argument being that it can seem like you’ve just sent it out haphazardly to everyone, without fully considering which is the best publisher for you and the project. It’s best to really consider who already publishes in the area you’re working in, where the best books are coming from and whether the reputation of the publisher is right for you (for instance, if you need a university press for tenure, or you need a publisher who double reviews the manuscripts, and so on). As each publisher will invest time and money in the review process, submitting to various places is a difficult one, but you should certainly feel free to submit elsewhere if you haven’t heard back.
I’d personally say that given the fact it can sometimes take a little while to hear back from editors initially, it might be worth approaching a few to start with to gauge interest – however, it is best to be upfront about this, and certainly once you have had contact with an editor you need to make it clear to everyone if the project is also being considered by another publisher (for politeness as well as practicalities). It is tricky if you were to get to the point of being offered a contract by two publishers at the same time without either knowing you’d been discussing the project elsewhere, especially as by that point there will likely have been a significant amount of input from the publishers and reviewers in developing the overall approach of the project. Again, if in doubt have a look at the publisher’s website and see if there is guidance on multiple submissions. And individually submitting the same project to several editors at the same publisher is generally poor form – if you’re not quite sure who to approach, try one editor and ask them to pass the project on to a colleague if it’s not right for them, or copy the editors into the same email so they don’t all end up individually assessing the same project.
Commissioning Editor – Design and Photography
Bloomsbury Visual Arts
“Ask the Editor” is a Design Incubation series, where design academics, researchers, and practitioners pose their questions to editors of books, journals, conferences and other academic and design trade publishing organizations. If you would like your questions answered by publishing professionals, send your questions to Design Incubation via the “Ask the Editor” form on our website.