So: should you multiple submit to literary magazines?
Short version: Yes.
Need more? God, yes!
Life’s short – multiple submit. Tell the literary magazines you’re submitting to that you are submitting to multiple places at the same time and promise to come back to them as soon as a piece isn’t available any more. Then do that.
Track your work well, withdraw pieces immediately when they’ve been accepted elsewhere and be pleasant and polite about it. Like everything else in life, act with integrity around it and it’s unlikely you’ll have problems.
As an editor, I know the frustration of being interested in a writer’s piece only to be told it was no longer available. Why? Sometimes it was because the writer was disorganized, and hadn’t properly kept track of the work as it went out. But usually, it just meant we’d waited too long and missed our chance.
When that happened, our response as an editorial team was to ask ourselves if anything was going wrong in our processes so that it was just taking too long for good work to reach us through the submission system.
There was never a single incident where we held it against the writer that we couldn’t publish the work – we knew that our inability to read that piece and accept it before another publication did was the real issue.
Often we reached out to encourage the writer to send us more work in the future. It happens!
Granted, not all literary magazines are like that. There are those who straight up say they won’t accept multiple submissions, even in these days of online submissions. But there are fewer and fewer of these and you can reasonably not keep them on your list to submit to, or can give them one or two chances and see how it goes.
Multiple submissions have become the new standard and it would be a shame to hold yourself and your work back because an increasingly small minority of magazines don’t appreciate the practice. Give it a try and track the results to see how much more you’re able to publish.