Submission Protocol: When to Withdraw Part II

Last week I discussed when and how to withdraw a story in Submission Protocol: When to Withdraw. In that post, we discussed a single situation when withdrawing a story might be the best thing to do. In this one, we’ll discuss two situations where it’s more cut and dry.

As with all things, check the submission guidelines before you send a withdrawal letter. Some publishers may have specific guidelines for withdrawing a story.

1) Simultaneous Submissions

This is one time sending a withdrawal letter is a must. If you submit a story to two publishers (that accept sim-subs) and one of them accepts the story, you should immediately inform the other publisher and withdraw the piece from consideration. It’s the professional thing to do, and, honestly, it’s usually in the guidelines for any publisher open to sim-subs (And we always follow the guidelines, right?) So what might that letter look like?

Dear Editors,

I submitted my short story [story title] to [publisher] on [date of submission]. The story has been accepted elsewhere for publication. At this time, I would like to withdraw my story from consideration.

Best,

I think you should alert the publisher in the email subject line that you are withdrawing the story. Something like: Story Withdrawal – [Story Title] – [Author Name]. A publisher that accepts sim-subs will have received this letter before, so they won’t be surprised by it, and if you’re professional and follow the guidelines, it won’t hurt you chances on future submissions.

2) Publisher Closing

This may seem like a corner case, but I’ve sent more withdrawal letters for this reason than any other (seven so far). Unfortunately, sometimes a new publisher or even an established one goes out of business. (We’ve had to say goodbye to some great ones in the last couple of years.) Often, the publisher will inform authors with stories under consideration, either on their website, through email, or via social media (or all three). The publisher will sometimes set a deadline for when they will stop accepting submissions and when/if they will respond to the submissions they currently have. In either situation, you probably won’t need to send a withdrawal letter.

Sometimes the only way you know a publisher has gone out of business is because they stop responding to submissions and/or their website and social media accounts disappear and/or they are marked as closed or defunct by Duotrope or The Submission Grinder. In that case, I generally wait a couple of weeks to see if the publisher makes an announcement. If they don’t, I’ll go ahead and send this withdrawal letter.

Dear Editors,

I submitted my short story [story title] to [publisher] on [date of submission]. At this time, I would like to withdraw the story.

Best,

I have put something like “It appears you are no longer considering submissions” into the email, but the simple letter above is probably sufficient. You likely won’t get a response, and in my experience, it’s not uncommon for the withdrawal email to bounce back because the submission address no longer exists. Still, I think sending the letter is the professional thing to do.


Any other reason you might withdraw a story? Tell me about it in the comments.

14 thoughts on “Submission Protocol: When to Withdraw Part II

    • I wouldn’t do it. Here’s why. When you send a publisher a story, you should send them a finished work not a work in progress.

      That’s not to say you can’t have a brilliant idea in the shower the next day that might make the story better, but let the publisher make a decision first.

      That’s my two cents, anyway.

      Reply
  1. I recently withdrew for the following reason. A story had been sitting with a magazine that had a bimodal distribution of response times (form rejections take either a few days or several months). There was another market whose submission closing time was approaching and I thought the story would be a good fit there. The first market doesn’t allow simultaneous submissions, and I was likely facing another couple of months of waiting plus a likely rejection from them. So I withdrew the story in order to submit to the second magazine by the deadline; the decision was a good one, as the story got accepted. But basically I withdrew in order to avoid violating the first magazine’s no-simsubs policy; I hope they’re not annoyed with me now. (The second magazine would have allowed simsubs).

    I really don’t mind the “no simsubs” policy if the response times — specifically, form-rejection times — are short; I am OK waiting once the story goes to the second round etc. But it does irk me when a market doesn’t allow simsubs yet holds on to a story for months, only to send you a form no or no response at all after a lengthy wait.

    Reply
    • Personally, I’d file this one under “don’t make it a habit,” but I completely understand your reasoning. I also think it’s much better to withdraw a story than to violate the publisher’s guidelines.

      Reply
  2. What is the correct protocol for withdrawing a submission if the publisher uses a submissions software, but doesn’t provide any email address or way to contact them outside of that?

    Reply
    • Excellent question. I have never actually withdrawn a story from a submission manager, but I do know a few things about how Submittable (one the most popular ones) handles them.

      When you click one of your submitted stories in Submittable, there’s a withdraw link in the upper right-hand corner. That should take you to a dialog box where you can send the publisher a message. That message should just be what you would send them in an email.

      I believe Moksha (another big one) has similar functionality.

      Reply
  3. My only withdrawal was when I realized that night as I fell asleep I hadn’t conformed the story’s format to that required by the market’s guidelines. I hopped up, withdrew the story (via Submittable, which was easy), revised the format, and re-submitted the story.

    Reply
  4. My recent concern is a magazine that accepted work of mine hadn’t contacted me since that email…later, I contacted them to see what was up; the magazine has shifted funding around and so their publication is on pause rather than entirely stopping. Any suggestions for what I should do with this particular piece? It’s a really lovely magazine and I would like to be a part of it, but the waiting is getting to be excruciating.

    Reply
    • Tough call. If you think they will be up and running soon, then you could wait it out. That said, a publication in that situation likely wouldn’t take offense if an author withdrew a submission.

      Reply

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