A family member has had a verbal offer of publication for a book (a collection of pieces), though no contract has been signed yet and the printed book is probably quite a ways off. If all goes well, this would be her first published book (after years of trying). She also has another book (a novel) already written, which she also has been shopping out to agents and publishers. All this is occurring in a country in which the publishing industry is much smaller and more difficult to find opportunities than, say, the U.S.

The question is: is it a good idea or not to send out the other book (the novel) to other publishing companies at this point?

My concern for her was that if the publisher that has offered to publish her collection finds out about this, they will be (understandably) displeased that she has submitted to a competitor, and it may sour her relationship with them for future work. On the other hand, it seems odd for her to tell them, "hey, I also have a novel for you guys!" and that would likely "overwhelm" them and also potentially sour their relationship...but if she waits to submit the novel to them until after the collection is out and (let's hope) selling for a while, it may delay the chance to publish the novel for 1-2 years.

I'd like to help advise her in a way that is strategic and ethical, and in keeping with typical publishing industry standards. Also, is there a term for this situation? It's not really "multiple submissions" because we're talking about two different works.

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    Chances are, in a small place like that, word will get around anyway. She should be transparent and assertive. Put the publishers in a frame of mind to compete for her.
    – rolfedh
    Jan 7, 2016 at 3:02
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    Verbal contracts are notoriously unreliable and are practically unenforceable in court. Next time someone offers a verbal contract that sounds reasonable, vehemently agree, write it up on paper, and ask them to sign.
    – rolfedh
    Jan 7, 2016 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


I follow Jane Friedman's blogs and accept her word as Truth.

This scenario has come up on the blog site. It seems that your situation is a little different than some others in that your family member is not relying on an immediate income source, and she has already held the novel for some time.

Many authors (myself included) have whole, completed novels that are unpublished and awaiting that breakout book to spawn the rest of one's work.

The blog site recommends written notification to Company 1 that one is peddling additional work to Company 2, et. al. Company 1 may choose to also consider additional said work or ignore it. Publishers generally aren't miffed because everyone appreciates that everyone is trying to make a buck.

Thus, the decision is based more on the wishes of your family member than on the wishes of Company 1. However, I'll say there is nothing like peddling your work to take a long look and ask, "Does this suck? Where am I at as a writer?"

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