Submission Protocol: For the Record

No doubt you’ve seen me post copious amounts of stats and analysis on this blog relating to my submissions, rejections, and acceptances. I’m able to do that because I keep track of every single submission I send and its outcome (plus a bunch of other details). You don’t have to be a stat wonk like me, but you should keep track of all your submissions. Here’s why.

  1. Avoid dumb submission mistakes. Once you get into triple digits with submissions that comprise dozens of stories, it can be pretty easy to forget where you sent each one. So one of the things I do before I send out a story, especially one that’s racked up a fair number of rejections, is to check my database. That way I can make sure I’m not sending it to a publisher that’s already rejected it. Full disclosure: I’ve actually made this mistake a few times. Wanna know why? I didn’t check my fucking database before I hit send. (Let’s call that a cautionary tale.)
  2. Submission analysis & targeting. Look, you don’t have to get all crazy with the data like I do, but having some data at hand can be useful to determine how your submissions are doing overall. You can look for trends and anomalies that might help you dial in your submission targeting. Are you only getting standard form rejections from that one magazine and then going on to sell those stories elsewhere? Yeah? Then maybe that market isn’t a good fit for your work. Are your horror stories landing at a market but they’re consistently rejecting your fantasy stories? Okay, then stop sending them fantasy stories. A submission database that keeps track of not just when and where, but also genre, length, and other details may slightly increase the likelihood of an acceptance.
  3. Big-picture progress. One of my favorite things about a robust database is it really lets me see how I’m doing month to month and year to year. I can see if my acceptance numbers (and rate) are improving, if I’m getting more higher-tier and personal rejections than standard rejections, and all sorts of other info that can be quite encouraging. Having a database can help you take a big-picture view of your work rather than the isolated snapshots that come with each rejection. That’s always a confidence booster for me.

I’ve told you why you should keep a submission database; now let me tell you how. My preferred method is to let someone else do the bulk of the work, which is why I track all my submissions through Duotrope. They keep that database for me, and I can filter by market, by story, by rejection (and type of rejection), and so on. I can also download all this data with the click of a button if I want to manipulate it further. Yes, Duotrope is five bucks a month, but if you submit as often as I do, I think that’s a bargain. The Submission Grinder (which is free) has similar functionality, but since I don’t use that service I can’t give you the exact details.

What if you don’t want to use Duotrope or the Submission Grinder to track your submissions? No problem. It’s super easy to set up an Excel spreadsheet that’ll do the trick. If you’re Excel savvy, you can even get a lot of the same functionality you get at Duotrope with a little work. What should your submission database track? Here are the basics you should include: story title, genre, length, market, date sent, date received, and response. That might look like this.

This is a cobbled-together snapshot of some of my own submissions as an example of how you might track your own (No, I don’t generally rock a 50% acceptance rate; I just grabbed a bunch of old submissions for variety). Pretty simple, right? I can sort and parse this data in a number of ways to get all analytical if I want or just to make sure I don’t send a story to a market that’s already rejected it. If you want a more functionality, consider keeping tracking things like the days between submissions and responses and if the submission is a reprint or a sim-sub. That’s all great data. Whatever your database looks like the real key is to be consistent and diligent with keeping track of your submissions. Record every submissions and every response right away (if possible). Yeah, I know recording rejections kind of sucks, but trust me, it’ll serve you in the long run.


How do you keep track of your submissions? Tell me about it in the comments.

How Many Rejections Add up to an Acceptance?

I was perusing my Twitter feed recently, and I happened upon a tweet asking about the maximum number of rejections authors have received before they sold a story. My personal record is sixteen, and while I think that’s a bit of a fluke, I rarely have one-and-done submissions either. I find this subject fascinating because, for me, it’s one of the core principles in my submission philosophy. What I mean is, yes, you have to write a good story, but you also have to send that story to the right market at the right time.

To illustrate my point–and because I love charts and data and stuff–let’s take a look at my acceptances this year and see how many rejection each story racked up before it was accepted.

Story Rejections
Luck Be a Bullet 2
New Arrivals 2
The Food Bank 3
Scare Tactics 6
Simulacra 1
Two Legs 5
Burning Man 7
The Inside People 2
Do Me a Favor 0
Scar 6
What Kind of Hero 8
Far Shores and Ancient Graves 2
Bear Necessity 0
Old as the Trees 2
Time Waits for One Man 0
When the Lights Go On 9

That’s an average of about three and a half rejections per story. Not too bad. One of the stories “Scare Tactics” is interesting because it’s a reprint, and I’ve now sold it twice after it’s initial six rejections. Another interesting one is “Far Shores and Ancient Graves” because it’s my first acceptance from a market that has rejected me ten times prior. (I could write a whole blog post about not giving up on a market just because they’ve rejected you before, but I’ll save that for another time.) But let’s look at two stories at the extreme ends of my chart, “When the Lights Go On” and “Time Waits for One Man.” They were both ultimately accepted, but “Time Waits for One Man” sold on its first submission while it took ten submissions to find a home for “When the Lights Go On.” Why is that?

Could it be simple quality that determined the fates of these two stories? Though I’m hardly unbiased, I think these two stories represent some of the best flash pieces I’ve written, and “When the Lights Go On” was short listed three times by pro markets and received very positive feedback. Was it submission targeting that made the difference? That’s always a bit of a gamble, but I sent “When the Lights Go On” to markets with which I’m very familiar. Which leads me to genre. Could that be a factor? Maybe. “When the Lights Go On” is sci-fi with a strong horror element and “Time Waits for One Man” is firmly urban fantasy. Admittedly, horror can be a tough sell for some markets, even if the story is within the primary genres they publish, so that could have played a role.

Taking all the above into account, why was “Time Waits for One Man” accepted on its first submission while nine publishers passed on “When the Lights Go On?” Well, with the possible exception of the horror element, I’d chalk it up to two things. Editorial taste and dumb luck. Though a number of publishers liked “When the Lights Go On” and said as much, it wasn’t quite what they were looking for. Whereas “Time Waits for One Man” happened to be more or less exactly what one market (and editor) wanted. I just lucked out and sent the story to them first. I think that easily might have happened with “When the Lights Go On.”

To sum up, remember, good stories get rejected all the time, and nearly every story on my list was rejected by a market that ultimately accepted another story on my list. So don’t get discouraged because your story receives a couple of rejections (or nine). It might mean you just haven’t sent to the right market yet.


What’s your record for number of rejections before you sold a story? Tell me about it in the comments.

Replying to a Rejection: Dos and (mostly) Don’ts

A topic I see a fair amount among authors is whether or not you should reply to a rejection letter. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’d say the answer is no, but my views on this blog are kind of an evolving thing. Something I said you should never do a couple of years ago, I might now say don’t do very often or don’t do it unless it’s under these very specific circumstances. So let’s revisit replying to a rejection letter and talk about some specific reasons you might think about typing out a reply and whether or not it’s a good idea.

1) To argue with the editor for rejecting your story. Do. Not. Do. This. It’s real bad form, and it’s probably (definitely) going to hurt your chances at future publications with that market. Look, rejections aren’t fun, but they’re part of the gig, and, most importantly, they are not personal. Editors reject stories for lots of reasons that often have nothing to do with the quality of the work, and what doesn’t work for one market may very well be exactly what another market wants. So, suck it up, move on, and submit that story somewhere else.

2) Because you didn’t like or agree with the feedback. If the editor took the time to actually give you constructive feedback, that’s probably because they saw some merit in the work. That’s a good thing. You should submit another story to that market. If you don’t agree with the feedback you received, that’s okay too. There’s no point in attempting to argue with the editor over something like that. It’s an opinion, and, again, it’s not personal. Absorb the feedback (or don’t) and move on.

3) Because the editor was rude. But were they? Really? I conceded that it’s certainly possible an editor might be rude in a rejection, and I’m sure it’s happened, but after receiving hundreds of them, I can’t remember a single one where the editor was anything but professional. Sometimes form rejection letters are short and to the point, and if you’re feeling salty about the no, you might be tempted to read terseness or rudeness into that (I’ve actually seen this happen). Don’t. See reason number one. It’s not personal.

4) They made a mistake. I mean an actual mistake. See reason number one for the “mistake” of not accepting your story. I once received a rejection for someone else’s story. Our pieces had very similar titles, and the editor made a very understandable error. I replied with a polite note explaining the situation, and the editor responded with an apology and then read and replied to my submission within the next couple of days. In a sense, my response to that error worked a lot like a submission status query, and my story was read well ahead of the publisher’s usual schedule.

So, yes, this is the ONE time you should absolutely respond to a rejection letter. I can’t imagine an editor being anything but appreciative, just like the editor in my example was.

5) To thank an editor for providing feedback. The last time I talked about replying to rejection letters, I said you shouldn’t do this. Mostly, because it’s not necessary or expected. That said, my thoughts have evolved slightly on this specific example. Let me explain.

A market I hugely respect published one of my stories a few years ago, and I send them a lot of my work. I generally get personal rejections, and, as is my standard operating procedure, I don’t respond to them. In this one case, though, the editor gave me some thorough and very insightful feedback that vastly improved the story. I was so grateful I wanted to let them know. I sent a quick, “I never do this, but thank you so much for that incredibly useful feedback.” They sent me a nice email about how they rarely take offense at responses to rejections (you know, unless they’re for those first two reasons), and they don’t mind hearing their feedback was helpful.

Despite my example, I don’t think you should do this often (I’ve done it exactly once), but if the market has published you before and you’re somewhat familiar with the editor and they’ve provided you with something really helpful, then, a quick, polite thank you after a rejection is probably not an issue.

Please note, however, some publishers straight-up tell you in their guidelines not to respond to rejections, even if it’s something like I outlined above. In that case, follow the guidelines and do NOT respond to a rejection from that publisher (with the possible, very rare exception of reason #3).


So, to sum up, replying to a rejection letter is almost always a bad idea or simply not necessary, but there are a couple of corner cases where you might consider it.

Can you think of a reason I left off? If so, tell me about it in the comments.

The Long View II: Genre Markets for Novelettes & Novellas

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called The Long View: Genre Markets for Novelettes & Novellas, and it turned out to be one of my more popular posts. Guess there are a lot of folks writing at that length. Anyway, in that post, I took a broad look at the number of genre markets that accept novelettes and novellas using Duotrope as my primary source. I think it’s time for an update on this subject, especially since my last post did not include The Submission Grinder and my methods were, uh, less than perfect. I’ve also included two more genres in this analysis: mystery and romance.

It’s important to note that my numbers are not complete. They’re a snapshot in time of which markets are currently accepting novelettes and novellas and are listed on Duotrope and The Submission Grinder. Though I’m likely hitting most of the markets that accept stories of these lengths, there are certainly others not listed on either market database or are currently closed to submissions.

We’re only going to look at novelettes and novellas, which Duotrope and the Submission Grinder define as such:

  • Novelette: 7,500 to 15,000 words
  • Novella: 15,000 to 40,000 words

As for pay scale, I’m looking at three categories, defined as:

  • Token: under 1 cent per word
  • Semi-Pro: 1 cent to 4 cents per word
  • Pro: 5 cents per word and up

Lastly, (D) stands for Duotrope and (SG) stands for The Submission Grinder in the tables below. Also, note the two databases have a lot of overlap, and many publishers are listed on both. This is reflected in the numbers below.

Okay, lets look at those genres.

Horror

Since I’m a horror writer, primarily, let’s look at the horror market first:

Horror Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 12 21 4 4 2 3
Novella 4 11 0 1 2 2

There are a fair amount of token horror markets that will accept longer works, and a lot of these can be found on The Submission Grinder. Pickings get thin once you hit semi-pro and pro, however, and you’re really restricted to just a few markets for novelettes and novellas. The other thing to note here is that many of these publishers are not pure horror markets. For example, Clarkesworld and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show accept a wide array of speculative fiction that includes horror.

Fantasy

Let’s move on to fantasy, where thing open up a little.

Fantasy Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 20 33 5 10 9 10
Novella 11 18 2 3 7 6

You have a pretty wide range of markets to choose from for long-form fantasy, even pro markets. There’s a fair bit of overlap between novellas and novelettes in that often the same market will publish both lengths. The pro markets here are some of the biggest names in speculative fiction, including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworldand Fantasy & Science FictionThough a number of these pro markets are listed as publishing novellas, they cap word counts at 25,000 words or less.

Science Fiction

Now science fiction, likely the best genre for long-form fiction in terms of available pro markets.

Sci-Fi Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 19 23 6 11 11 11
Novella 7 13 4 3 9 8

There are more semi-pro and pro markets for science fiction novellas and novelettes than any other genre. That said, many of these markets are also present in the fantasy accounting above (and even horror). Also, word counts here, like fantasy, are often restricted to the lower end for novellas. You’ll find a lot of the big names you’d expect among these markets, including those that publish only sci-fi, such as Analog Science Fiction Fact.

Mystery/Crime

Next is mystery/crime, and options are limited here.

Mystery/Crime Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 1 6 1 2 2 3
Novella 1 3 0 0 2 3

There really aren’t that many semi-pro and pro markets for mystery/crime of any length, and you’re really restricted if you want to write something longer than a short story. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine are the big names here. Note Hitchcock’s does not accept novellas, and while Ellery Queen does, they cap them at 20,000 words.

Romance/Erotica

Finally, let’s look at romance and erotica.

Romance Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 4 8 1 1 0 1
Novella 4 6 0 0 0 1

Your options are even more limited in the romance and erotica genres. The only pro romance market that came up was East of the Web Romance Imprint, which does publish novellas up to 40,000 words. I found no professional erotica markets listed on either database for novellas and only one semi-pro.

Pro Markets for Novelettes and Novellas

Finally, here’s a list of all the pro markets from the tables above that publish novelettes and novellas and where they cap word counts for novellas. As always, make sure you read the guidelines thoroughly before you submit to any of these publishers.

Market Genres Novelette Novella
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine M, T Y N
Amazing Stories S Y N
Analog Science Fiction & Fact S Y to 40,000 words
Asimov’s Science Fiction F, S Y to 20,000 words
Beneath Ceaseless Skies F Y N
Clarkesworld Magazine F, H, S Y to 16,000 words
East of the Web Children’s Stories F, S Y to 40,000 words
East of the Web Horror Imprint H Y to 40,000 words
East of the Web Mystery Imprint M Y to 40,000 words
East of the Web Romance Imprint R, M, T Y to 40,000 words
East of the Web Science Fiction/Fantasy Imprint F, S Y to 40,000 words
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine M Y to 20,000 words
Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF) F, S Y to 25,000 words
Future Science Fiction Digest S Y N
Grantville Gazette S Y unspecified
Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show F, H, S Y to 17,500 words
Reckoning F, S Y to 40,000 words
Strange Horizons F, H, S Y N
Universe Annex [Grantville Gazette] F, S Y to 40,000 words
Writers of the Future Contest F, S Y to 17,000 words

F – fantasy, H – horror, M – mystery, R – romance, S – science fiction, T – thriller

You’ll of course notice a lot of overlap, especially with fantasy and science fiction, and slim pickings for pro horror, romance, and mystery markets. As I said earlier, this is not an exhaustive list. It’s a snapshot of which publishers are currently open to submissions and are listed on either Duotrope or The Submission Grinder.


So, what’s the take-away? I don’t want to give the impression you shouldn’t write long form genre fiction, but it’s important to understand that works over 7,500 words limits your options for publication in traditional magazines, zines, and anthologies, especially if you want to submit to semi-pro and pro markets. That said, sometimes a story just needs to be the length it needs to be.

Besides the markets I’ve listed above, what other options does a novelette/novella writer have? Well, a few big publishers, like Tor.com and Hydra (a digital imprint of Random House), occasionally accept submissions for novellas (both are currently closed to submissions). I’ve also seen a number of smaller book publishers put out open calls for novellas. Examples include Parvus Press (recently closed to submissions) and Twelfth Planet Press (open to submissions). A little research is likely to pull up more small publishers that produce novellas, just make sure you vet these markets thoroughly to make sure they’re a good fit for your work and that they’re legit publishers (not vanity publishers in disguise, for example).

Lastly, there’s self-publishing, which seems to be a popular option for novellas, and I see a fair amount of authors going that route. Obviously, self-publishing comes with its own share of challenges, and you definitely want to do your homework before diving in.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. If you know of any good markets for genre novelettes and novellas, please share them in the comments.

Submission Protocol: Summary Execution

In my opinion, one of the toughest things for writers to do is summarize their work into a few sentences. I mean get it down to pitch length, still make it interesting, and avoid giving away the entire plot. Authors aren’t called on to do this very often with short story submissions, but a few markets ask for a brief synopsis in the cover letter.

So how do you write a good summary? Well, I’ll tell you how I do it, but before we get started be advised that story summaries are somewhat rare in publisher guidelines and you should never include one unless the publisher specifically asks for it.

Okay, as with everything submission-related, always read and follow the guidelines. When a publisher asks for a summary, they’ll usually say something like this:

Please put your title, byline, and word count in your cover letter, as well as a brief note about how your story fits the theme.

Brief and fit the theme are the important bits there. When you write a summary or synopsis, keep it to a single paragraph, and make sure you clearly demonstrate how the story fits the theme of the magazine or anthology. Something like this:

Set in the mid-50s, “When the Lights Go On” takes place in a small towns near Arco, Idaho, the first to be powered entirely by nuclear energy in the United States. The townsfolk have noticed terrible changes in themselves whenever they turn on the lights powered by this new energy source. 

What I want the editor to get out of my summary are three things: how my story fits the theme/subject matter of the publication, the general premise of the story, and the primary plot hook. I feel if I can accomplish all that, I’m in good shape.

Here’s another, longer story summary. It’s still a single paragraph, however, and again, my goal is to explain how it fits the theme of the publication, set the premise, and give a plot hook.

In an alternate version of the United States, the country has instituted archaic dueling codes overseen by a government agency called the Bureau of Honorable Affairs. Victims of certain offenses can force their tormentors to face them in state-sanctioned combat. In a “Point of Honor,” the protagonist, Jacob Mayweather, is challenged to a duel by a man he has never met for a crime he does not remember committing. 

This is about as long as I would go with a summary (this one is 70 words). More than that, and I think you risk a) giving away too much of the story, b) losing the interest of your reader (the editor), and c) failing to follow guidelines that include words like “brief” or “quickly.”

That’s how I write a story summary, but why would publishers want one in the first place? I think there are two reasons and editor might request one.

  1. Fit the theme. More often than not, when I see a request for a story summary its from an anthology with a very specific theme. By asking writers to briefly summarize their stories, the editors can determine if the story is going work for the anthology before reading it. If the theme is hard sci-fi and the editors get a submission with a story summary that is clearly epic fantasy, they don’t have to waste time reading that story.
  2. Writing sample. A story summary is going to give the editors a sneak peek at the author’s writing ability. Can they clearly and engagingly describe their story? Do they use punctuation and grammar correctly? This is not to say a badly written summary means the editors won’t read the story or that a good one increases chances of an acceptance, but it’s a first impression that will likely color the editor’s opinion of the story to follow.

What are your thoughts on summaries and synopses? Tell me in the comments.

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.

Submission Protocol: When to Withdraw

Withdrawing a story from a publisher is an oft-discussed topic in writer circles, and there are a lot of opinions on when and if you should do it. My views have evolved on this subject over the years, so I thought it might be a good time to revisit it. It should be noted that I’m specifically talking about withdrawing a story from a publisher that has been unresponsive for a considerable amount of time. There are other times when the decision to withdraw a story is much more cut and dry (sim-subs and defunct publishers, to name two).

When should you withdraw a story? Well, again, there are a lot of opinions, but here’s a checklist or series of “if this, then that” scenarios you might consider before pulling the trigger on the withdrawal letter.

Step 1: Has the publisher exceeded their stated (1) response time by a reasonable (2) period? If yes, go to step two. If no, then wait until that time has passed, then go to step two.

Step 2: Is the publisher responding to submissions on Duotrope or the Submission Grinder (3)? If yes, consider waiting until they’ve exceeded their actual (4) response time. If no, then go to step three.

Step 3: Has the publisher indicated on their website or social media they are working through submissions? (5) If yes, and the publisher has given a deadline, consider waiting until that date has passed. If no, go to step four.

Step 4: Does the publisher allow submission status queries? (6) If yes, and all criteria from the previous steps have been met, then send a submission status query and go to step five. If the publisher does not allow them, do not send one, and go to step five.

Step 5: Has the publisher responded to the submission status query (or responded in general if they don’t allow them) and resolved the submission with a rejection, an acceptance, a further consideration letter, or an update of some kind? If yes, congrats; you’re done. If no, and a reasonable amount of time has passed, then go to step six.

Step 6: Assuming the publisher has not responded to you, have they responded to any submissions on Duotrope or The Submission Grinder or left any indication on their website or social media about submissions since the first/last time you checked? If yes, it’s reasonable to wait and not entirely unreasonable to go to step seven at this point. If no, go to step seven.

Step 7: Send a withdrawal letter.

(1) The stated response time is usually in the publisher’s guidelines. For genre, I find it’s somewhere between 30 and 90 days. If the publisher does not list a stated response time, look at Duotrope or The Submission Grinder for an average response time and use that.

(2) What’s a reasonable amount of time in this situation? That’s really a gut check thing. A month past the stated response time for a query letter is reasonable, I think. Waiting a month after the submission status query to send the withdrawal letter is also reasonable. Still, this all comes down to what you are comfortable with, so take my checklist with a grain of salt and do what works for you (while still following publisher guidelines).

(3) If you don’t use Duotrope or the Submission Grinder, I’d recommend you do. If not for tracking submissions, then as a market database, and, of course, an excellent way to gauge publisher response times.

(4) The actual response time can vary dramatically from the publisher’s stated response time. It’s often longer, but there are markets that routinely have actual response times far shorter than their stated response times. Obviously, you won’t have to worry about the latter when it comes to withdrawal letters.

(5) It’s a good habit to check a publisher’s Facebook and Twitter for updates about response times. Many publishers also post a lot of great advice about submissions and writing in general.

(6) Even if a publisher allows submission status queries, they might mention a specific period of time they want authors to wait before sending one. Always check the guidelines before you send that letter.


If you do make it to step seven, what should the withdrawal letter look like? Here’s an example of one I’ve used:

Dear Editors,

I submitted my short story [story title] to [publisher name] on [date submitted]. I sent a submission status query on [date of query]. At this time, I would like to withdraw the story from consideration.

Best,

Just give the publisher the facts: story title, when you sent it, and when you sent the submission status query (if you sent one). I also think it’s a good idea to alert the publisher you’re withdrawing the story in the subject line of the email. Something like: – Submission Withdrawal – [Story Title] – [Author Name]. If the publisher assigns any kind of tracking number to the submission, you should also include that in the subject line or body of the email.

Keep the letter short, to the point, and, above all, professional. You don’t know the situation on the other end of that email, so be polite, move on, and send the story somewhere else.


Thoughts on withdrawing a story? Tell me about it in the comments.