Some publications accept “simultaneous submissions,” which is when you submit a piece to more than one publication at the same time. Others do not. (This is different than “multiple submissions,” which is when you submit more than one piece to the same publication.) This is hotly debated and both writers and editors have clear arguments. Those in favor of simultaneous submissions argue that it can take a long time for editors to make a decision and that can severely limit how often the piece is considered. In a market that’s as competitive as writing, this can make it very difficult for writers to publish. The other end of the argument is equally compelling: editors spend a great deal of time on works that are considered for publication. Those that make it further along in the process are often read by several people. Editors meet to discuss and debate which should be accepted. It can be very frustrating to invest all that time only to find the piece is already taken.
Whether you simultaneously submit depends upon what kind of writing you’re submitting and the individual publication’s policy. Literary journals or magazines that publish creative non-fiction essays, short stories, novel excerpts, and poems are generally more tolerant of simultaneous submissions as it often takes several months to respond. Still, some journals and magazines do not accept simultaneous submissions, so it is vital to always check an individual publication’s current writer’s guidelines. These are usually easily accessible on the website or masthead of a publication. Submit simultaneously whenever you can; it gives your work a better chance at publication.
When submitting articles to magazines or newspapers, you usually start with a pitch, rather than the whole article. Once the pitch is accepted, you then write the entire article. This process moves much faster and you often hear back on the pitch in a matter of weeks. As a result, editors expect that your submission is exclusive. (The exception, of course, is if they state in their writer’s guidelines that they accept simultaneous submissions.) Additionally, your pitch should be targeted to a specific magazine, so you wouldn’t send the same one out to several magazines anyway. If you receive a rejection, you can adjust the pitch to target the next publication.