Written by Emily Harstone March 23rd, 2023

The Problem with Mass Submitting

Mass submitting is a term used to describe when an author, or a company working on an author’s behalf, submits their work to a whole laundry list of publishers and agents and literary journals at once, regardless of whether their work follows the individual guidelines or not. For example, submitting a work of memoir to a literary journal that only publishes flash fiction.

Sometimes this is the result of not reading the submission guidelines and sometimes it is a result of deciding not to follow them. Often I receive submissions of fiction with a note somewhere along the lines of “I know you don’t accept fiction, but my work is exceptional” attached.

There is a reason guidelines exist.

Mass submitting is not the same as submitting simultaneously, which is submitting to more than one journal at a time. I encourage simultaneous submissions, as do most journals. With turnaround times so slow, it is often the best route forward. I have different work out to 40 journals at a time, but I am very careful to follow their guidelines and make sure my work fits their needs before submitting.

Sometimes these authors are not submitting to a huge number of publishers or literary journals at once, but they still aren’t reading and following the guidelines the journal lays out and they are submitting work that in no way matches the publisher. This is just as inappropriate as general mass submitting.

The work submitted in this way is not going to be published because it does not in any way match the publisher’s needs. Even the most amazing work will not be considered, because the publisher has no platform to promote it and it does not work within the framework of their business.

At Authors Publish we receive daily submissions of poetry, full length manuscripts, and other work, which we do not publish or even consider. In the almost eight years we’ve been operating, this has always been the case, but during recent times there has been a notable uptick.

During the last three years, submissions across the board — manuscript publishers and literary journals — have received an increase of submissions. This is both, of appropriate material — material that actually matches their submission guidelines and the range of work they published, as well as an increase in inappropriate material — work that in no way matches their needs or guidelines, and which they have even less time to deal with because of their increased level of submissions.

I am writing this article partially because in recent times a number of literary journals and manuscript publishers have closed to submissions right after we published a review on them. This has led to reader complaints.

Across the board, these publishers and literary journals have closed to submissions because of a massive influx of inappropriate submissions — where they are dealing with material that does not match their guidelines. This is in spite of us being increasingly more direct about what publishers will and will not accept in reviews, and discouraging inappropriate submissions within the reviews themselves.

Now I know for the vast majority of our readers this is not an issue, but I feel like it needed to be directly addressed, to prevent these submission closures from happening at the rate they currently are.

Before you submit to any of the journals and publishers we review, please read our review carefully, double check their submission guidelines, and get a feel for what they previously published by reading past issues/sample work, and/or browsing their catalogue.

Thank you for reading this, and please if you want to send me an email to discuss this further, feel free to do so at support@authorspublish.com. I take reader feedback seriously.

Emily Harstone is the author of many popular books, including The Authors Publish Guide to Manuscript SubmissionsSubmit, Publish, Repeat, and The 2022 Guide to Manuscript Publishers.

She regularly teaches three acclaimed courses on writing and publishing at The Writer’s Workshop at Authors Publish. You can follow her on Facebook here.


We Send You Publishers Seeking Submissions.

Sign up for our free e-magazine and we will send you reviews of publishers seeking short stories, poetry, essays, and books.

Subscribe now and we'll send you a free copy of our book Submit, Publish, Repeat