What’s the difference between internal review and “external” or “peer” review? Is it okay to have several presses review my manuscript simultaneously?
Internal review is casual dating
When I receive a manuscript for internal review, I’m seeing if it is well-written, thoughtful, cohesive. I’m deciding whether I think it has the chops to get good reviews from your peers—now and post-publication. I’m probably also making sure that it is indeed a good fit with my publications list.
For many presses, internal review is just what I described: a first look, to follow-up on the impression we had from your proposal.
Strategic dating and multiple submissions
You face constant pressure to publish, so it simply isn’t in your best interests to send your proposal to one press at a time, waiting to hear a “yes” or “no” before sending it to the next on your list of possible publishers.
This may also be true when a press asks to see the manuscript itself. And as long as the press’s interest is in the early stages (they’re just “taking a look”), there’s no harm in multiple submissions.
But in the name of honest—and strategic—communication, I’d suggest you let all those potential publishers know that several presses have your manuscript in-hand.
We’re a little competitive. If we know you’re talking to our arch-enemy, we may prioritize our internal review in hopes of landing your project before the competition makes up its mind.
Peer review is going steady
When I get in touch with Dr. Eminence and ask if she’s willing to read and offer her unvarnished (anonymous) opinion on your manuscript, we’ve crossed into the realm of external/peer review.
In general, a press that is ready to “send your manuscript out” will want exclusive review—monogamy.
The reason? It takes time and energy to line up reviewers. There aren’t actually that many people who are both qualified to comment on your manuscript and have the time to do so. Plus, it’s awkward to call The Perfect Reviewer, ask him to read a manuscript, and hear that note of confusion as he says,
“Umm, I’m already reading that manuscript for Press X.”
Try not to put your editor in that position!
Be honest… and communicate!
Now, this isn’t to say that swinging a multiple submission at the peer review stage is impossible. I know a few editors who don’t object to this at all.
But be sure to discuss your need/desire with all your potential editors before you let more than one of them send your manuscript out for peer review simultaneously.
(And by the way, I would not recommend that you attempt to have more than 2 presses peer-reviewing at once. That’s just too many cooks in the kitchen, and someone’s bound to get burned.)
Communicating honestly with your editors will go a long way toward preserving your relationship into the future–just remember that it is entirely possible that your ideal editor may say no to your proposed deal.
What has your experience been with multiple submissions and peer review?