Can an Author Have Two Different Publishers?

Many writers dream of publishing a book. Still, with only 10% of manuscripts being accepted, this dream may never materialize for some. Some even suggest submitting your manuscript to two or more publishers for a better chance of getting published, but should you do this? 

An author can have two different publishers as long as they don’t sign a contract stipulating that the publishers want exclusive rights, which is often the case. If you’re upfront about taking your manuscript to other publishers, you should be fine.

Below you’ll find the etiquette around submitting to multiple publishers and the benefits and obstacles of this process. Remember to consult a personal lawyer before acting on any information in Letter Review!

Can You Publish a Book With Multiple Publishers?

You can publish a book with multiple publishers if there’s no clause in your contract with a publisher stating that they will have exclusive rights to print the work. You must ensure you’re transparent with your plan to take your manuscript to multiple publishers so everyone’s on the same page

Being transparent and forthcoming about submitting your work to multiple publishers will also allow the publishers to decide whether or not they still want to take the project. You can do this by including that detail in your cover letter when you submit your manuscript. 

However, they might not think it’s worthwhile to compete with other publishers and potentially split profit for the published work once it hits the shelves. 

Though you can submit to multiple publishers, don’t submit your manuscript to as many as you can in the hopes one of them will accept it. Instead, you’ll want to submit your manuscript to publishers that align with your brand or understand and are enthusiastic about your work. 

Most importantly, go with a publisher that is offering you a fair cut of the profit and terms that you feel comfortable and confident about. 

Rachelle Gardner discusses six primary factors to consider when choosing the right publisher for your book. These range from the publisher’s enthusiasm about your book to the contract laws they put in place. 

Benefits Of Seeking Multiple Publishers

The main benefit of seeking multiple publishers is being able to explore different publishing avenues. Some publishers may have input that helps you improve your work, while others may be very excited about your work and put you in contact with someone they think would be perfect to publish with.

Submitting your work to multiple publishers can give you an idea of how publishable your work is, how you can improve it, and what kind of partnership and terms you want to pursue.

Why Publishers Want Exclusivity 

While you can technically publish a book with multiple publishers, this is somewhat of an anomaly compared to what happens typically. The reality is that a publisher will unlikely want you to publish with them and someone else simultaneously. 

Simultaneous publishing means sharing the credits and profits. 

Some of them may feel like you’re wasting their time, and they might be concerned you’ll pull out of the deal at the last minute in favor of another publisher. Sending a manuscript to multiple houses can put publishers at odds with each other and create a competitive and hostile environment. 

This is why many publishers have exclusivity rights included in the contract you sign upon deciding to publish with them. You can send your manuscripts to multiple publishers to ensure you choose one that is right for you and your work, but you will most likely have to choose just the one. 

Understanding all of this is the first step to signing a contract. 

Law Insider gives you a headstart on learning the laws surrounding publishing exclusivity and intellectual property copyright. 

Exceptions to Publishing Exclusivity

Publishers can sell the right to publish exclusively when it comes to publishing in a foreign country. Different publishers have different rights per geographic area.

Additionally, publishers can choose not to include a clause about exclusivity in their contract, but instead, agree to collaborate on publishing with another organization. In this case, both or several publishers will be listed in alphabetical order on the copyright page. 

Finally, once a book has gone out of print, publishers can grant a copyright license to other individuals or publishers who want to republish or reprint a book. 

Co-Publishing and Why It Could Be Beneficial

Co-publishing is when an author and publisher share the responsibility of paying publishing fees. This costs money upfront, which might seem like a disadvantage to the author, but actually could mean they get a much more significant portion of the profit. 

The balance of risk and reward is evident here, but one that should not be a shot in the dark. 

An author can benefit significantly from this arrangement, but they should only do it if they have faith that their book will sell well.

Grant of Rights and Publishing Exclusivity 

When doing a publishing deal, authors and publishers negotiate what’s known as a Grant of Rights, which is when a writer grants certain rights to a publisher. They can grant publishers a few rights, or they can grant them full rights.

An author retaining rights means they can get a higher profit percentage, but this is typically not done unless the author has an excellent reason for it. 

It’s generally regarded as unnecessary.

One of the rights an author can grant a publisher is the right to exclusivity. The caveat is that, by agreeing to this, an author gives over the right to publish this book and thus cannot grant any other publisher this right. The right to publish wholly belongs to the publisher. 

This is not necessary when publishing a book, but it’s important to note that many publishers will include this in their contracts. 

These rules differ regarding the republication of a work that has gone out of print. Publishers and authors can change exclusivity rights, hand printing rights to other publishers for a fee, and much more. 

A reprint or republish allows for more wiggle room.

What if You Violate Copyright Law?

If you break copyright law, known as copyright infringement, there will be some sort of punishment. This might not always be as serious as a jail sentence, but it may mean you have to pay a fine or compensate the legal copyright holder. 

Legal repercussions are just one aspect of copyright infringement. 

A creative can destroy their reputation, respectability, and future job opportunities by intentionally violating agreements they made. 

Do Self-Published Authors Sign Contracts?

Self-published authors do not sign contracts normally. But you only really need to consider contracts when choosing the platform you want to distribute your book on. If you self-publish through a self-publishing firm, they will draw up a contract which you will be required to sign. 

These differ from firm to firm, but always ensure everything seems reasonable.

For example, if you publish your book on Amazon, you must comply with specific rules they set out. These include exclusivity rules and how much you will be compensated. 


Depending on the contracts set out by publishers, you can submit your manuscript to different publishers simultaneously. The same goes for publishing. However, publishing your book with multiple publishers at once is uncommon.