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.

A Week of Writing: 6/11/18 to 6/17/18

Hey, it’s Monday. Here’s my weekly writer report card for your entertainment/edification/judgment.

Words to Write By

A little something new for these updates. I’m going to start each one with a favorite quote about writing. To kick us off, here’s one by Stephen King.

By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.

― Stephen King

A sterling example of even the greats were/are rejected. I also kind of love the idea of getting rejection letters in the mail. I mean, it’s really no different than getting an email rejection, other than my idea of wallpapering my office with rejection slips will never come to fruition.

The Novel

Still working on my initial read-through and making revisions. I had a little analysis paralysis last week that slowed me down. What’s difficult for me is that I’m struggling to accept that the revision process is going to take as long, if not longer than it took me to write the first draft. I just need to be okay with that because I’ll end up with a better book.

Short Stories

I finished a new flash piece I quite like, and I’ll start sending that one out this week. I also worked on a couple of longer pieces, which are getting closer to done or revised.

Not a lot of submission activity last week.

  • Submissions Sent: 2
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0

All the submission activity this week revolved around the same story. I sent it out once, received a nice personal rejection, revised it a bit, then sent it out again. These two submissions put me at 64 total for the year.

The Blog

Another good week for the ol’ blog.

6/11/18: A Week of Writing: 6/4/10 to 6/10/18

The usual weekly writing update.

6/13/18: Submission Protocol: When to Withdraw

I returned to the always popular subject of withdrawing a story from consideration. This time I shared an order of operations or checklist to consider before sending a withdrawal letter.

6/15/18: Free Flash – Where They Belong

This is a piece of flash fiction I sold to Darkfuse Magazine a few years ago. Unfortunately, Darkfuse closed up shop a while back, and the story is no longer available to read online. So, since the rights to the story have returned to me, I put it up on the blog.

Goals

Keep pushing through my first read of the novel and revising. I (always) want to get more short stories written and submitted as well.

Story Spotlight

This week’s story spotlight is another I published with The Molotov CocktailThis is a weird one I was sure no one would ever publish, but The Molotov liked it, and I’m grateful for it. Anyway, it’s called “A Man of Many Hats.”

“A Man of Many Hats”

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.

A Week of Writing: 6/4/18 to 6/10/18

Happy Monday. Another week down, another week of positive yardage, more or less.

The Novel

I’m still reading through the first draft of the novel, though I didn’t make much progress last week, mostly because I needed to focus on another project. This week, I’ll continue my read-through and start making some of the first big revisions to the book.

Short Stories

Last week I said I was going to ask my writing group to give a couple of short stories the once over, and I did. I received some really good feedback on two stories I like a lot that just weren’t quite there yet. I know what to do with them now, and hopefully once the revisions are done they’ll find a home.

Another slow week for submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 2
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Withdrawal: 1

This is the first week in a long time where I didn’t receive any rejections. I’m okay with that. I did send out two submissions, number 61 and 62 for the year. One is a brand new story on its first submission and the other is an older story I sent to a new market. I also withdrew a story after no response for many months. I’ll send that one out again this week.

Other Projects

One of the reasons I didn’t spend as much time on the novel is I finished up the D&D adventure I was writing for Goodman Games and turned it in. It had been a while since I did any game design, so it was a lot of fun to put that particular hat on again. I’ll reveal a bit more about this project as it gets closer to publication.

The Blog

Okay, last week was a good one for the ol’ blog, and I managed three posts.

6/4/18: A Week of Writing: 5/28/18 to 6/3/18

The usual weekly writing update.

6/6/18: The Final Round Form Rejection

In this post I discussed a type of higher-tier form rejection I called the final round form rejection. It’s a heart-breaker.

6/8/18: One-Hour Flash – Road to Ruin

Another piece of flash fiction jammed out in an hour. This one ties into a novel concept I’ve had kicking around for years.

Goals

Keep reading and revising the novel is goal number one. I’d also like to revise some of the short stories I mentioned above and get them out for submission.

Story Spotlight

This week’s story spotlight is the second piece I published with The ArcanistLike many of my published flash fiction stories, this one began life as part of a one-hour flash writing exercise (you can see one of the less successful results of those exercises in last week’s blog posts).

“Reunion”

 

The Final Round Form Rejection

It’s been a while since I posted about a new type of rejection letter, mostly because I’ve already written about every type of rejection under the sun. Well, as it turns out, not quite. The rejection letter I want to talk about today is a subspecies of higher-tier form rejection that gives you a little more information about where your story ended up in the publisher’s decision process. Let’s call it the final round form rejection.

Example #1

Very sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but we just made our final decisions today. We are going to have to pass on the story, however. This is the hardest part of the job, having to decline stories that we enjoyed so much, simply because didn’t have the space to include them all. It was a real struggle choosing the final stories. I appreciate your patience, and hope to see submissions from you in the future.

This is one of those rejection you might think is a personal rejection at first blush, but on further review, I think it’s a form rejection. It’s a good form rejection, as all of these final round form rejections are.

Example #2

Thanks so much for letting us consider your story [story title]. While it made it to the final round of consideration, I’m afraid that we chose not to accept it. We had a lot of submissions and there were difficult decisions to be made. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

This is very clearly a form rejection, but, like the others, the editor lets you know you got real, real close to publication.

Example #3

Thank you again for allowing us to consider your story, but it’s not a match for [anthology].

Your story made it to the final round. It was ranked among the best of the best. We had thousands of submissions from writers all over the world. Even some of our favorites, like your story, didn’t make it through.

Most of the time we don’t move forward with a story because it’s similar to another story in a different word slot. We’re striving for a diversity of sub-genres, writing styles and plot lines, in addition to stories of different lengths.

So that’s the bad news: Your story wasn’t selected for [anthology]. The good news is that there will be many more opportunities to submit to [publisher] in the future. Even though your work was not selected, you are a talented writer. We hope you will consider submitting to our future editions. 

So, I’ll admit, this one fooled me at first, and I thought it was a personal rejection. It isn’t; another writer pointed out that he had received the same rejection. Still, it is a final round form rejection.

Okay, you’ve seen the examples, now let’s talk about what makes these final round form rejections different than your typical higher tier form rejection.

  1. Further Consideration. Final round form rejections are usually preceded by a further consideration letter. Most publishers that use a multi-round decision process are good about letting you know your story has made it past the first round and they’re holding it until they make a decision. With anthologies, its usually a shortlist letter rather than a further consideration letter, but it amounts to the same thing.
  2. Longer wait. Because you’re dealing with a multi-round reading process, and often a ton of other submissions, the wait between the further consideration and the final decision can be longer than usual. In my examples, the first rejection came after 77 days against an average response time of 23 days for the publisher; the second rejection came after 81 days against and average of 10 days; and the final rejection came a 310 days against an average of 269 days.
  3. Closer than usual. With a standard higher-tier form rejection, it’s unclear how close your story made it to publication, and, honestly, with most markets you’d probably get a personal rejection if you got really close. That’s where the final round form rejection is a little different. Despite being a form rejection, you know your story almost made it to publication.
  4. Heart-Breaker. There’s no way around it. The final round form rejection is more disappointing than the typical rejection. It’s hard not to get your hopes up when you receive a further consideration letter and wait a long time for the final decision. Then, to find out you got this close to an acceptance but didn’t make the final cut, well, I won’t lie; that stings a bit. Still, it’s important to remember your story did make it to the final round and beat out hundreds, maybe thousands of other submissions. In other words, you probably have a marketable story on your hands. Case in point, two of the three stories in my examples here went on to acceptances.

Have any thoughts on the final round form rejection? Tell me about them in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 5/28/18 to 6/3/18

New month, new week, more writing and whatnot.

The Novel

I’m about 20,000 words into my first read-through of my horror novel, Late Risers. I let it sit for almost three weeks before I jumped in, and, as expected, my reactions range from “this is pretty good” to “this is objectively terrible.” That’s about par for the course, I think. It should be noted that what I’m doing in this read-through is fixing the problems that are so obvious they can be seen from space. The more nuanced issues, which I’m likely blind to at this point, will be left to skilled and gracious critique partners.

The question I ask myself a lot lately is did I write a good book? Here’s my honest answer. I think I wrote something that could become a good book after a liberal dose of literary elbow grease. I’m satisfied with that and more than willing to put in the work.

Short Stories

I finished a new flash piece this week, another one born of the one-hour flash challenge. It’s a horror/comedy mashup, and I really dig it. It’ll be going out for submission this week. I also had two short stories come back to me after a number of rejections. I really like both stories, and they received good feedback, but they’re not landing, so my writing group is giving them the once over before I send them out again.

A very, very slow week for submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 0
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0

Yep, my first goose egg in the submissions sent column in a long time. That’s due to a combination of factors that include not having any new stories to send out and a greater focus on other projects (the novel, for example). That’ll change this week, as I have one new story and a couple of reinvigorated pieces ready for submission.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week. This week, I’m again aiming for three and some actual content beyond “Hey, look at all my submissions.”

5/30/18: A Week of Writing: 5/21/18 to 5/27/18

The usual weekly writing update.

6/1/18: Submission Statement: May 2018

My submission scorecard for the month of May.

Goals

The big goal is to continue my first read-through/revision on the novel. I’d like to get another 20,000 words or so.

Story Spotlight

This week it’s not a story, but an interview. Howard Andrew Jones, editor-in-chief of Tales from the Magician’s Skull and a very accomplished editor and writer to boot, interviewed me for his website in a series called Writer Chat. Check it out below.

Writer Chat: Aeryn Rudel


And that, friends, was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: May 2018

Well, May was certainly an active month, though not as successful as March and April. Here’s how I did.

May 2018 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 14
  • Rejections: 12
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 0
  • Other: 1

Fourteen submissions in May. That’s solid, and I’ve got sixty for the year. The acceptance gives me six total for 2018, which puts me at an even ten percent acceptance rate. Not bad, but I’d like to get somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen percent by the end of the year. I’ve got a few stories shortlisted I’m waiting to hear about, but those could go either way.

Rejections

I won’t lie; twelve rejections is kind of a lot, but it’s to be expected with the increased submission volume. Here’s how those rejections broke down.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 6
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 5
  • Personal Rejections: 1

Again, a fair amount of “good” rejections, but some of these stories just aren’t landing despite some encouraging notes. I’m gonna take a good hard look at them and see if I can’t put my finger on what might be missing. There’s really nothing new and exciting in these rejections, so instead of showing you yet another form rejection, I think an examination of how long these markets are taking to respond would be more useful.

Rejection Date Sent Date Received Days Out
Rejection 1 28-Feb-18 1-May-18 62
Rejection 2 26-Mar-18 1-May-18 36
Rejection 3 3-May-18 5-May-18 2
Rejection 4 1-May-18 9-May-18 8
Rejection 5 29-Mar-18 11-May-18 43
Rejection 6 6-May-18 13-May-18 7
Rejection 7 5-May-18 20-May-18 15
Rejection 8 11-May-18 21-May-18 10
Rejection 9 14-May-18 21-May-18 7
Rejection 10 30-Apr-18 22-May-18 22
Rejection 11 22-May-18 23-May-18 1
Rejection 12 23-May-18 24-May-18 1

Not too bad. The longest wait was 60 days, and that’s well within acceptable parameters. As you can see, there’s a fair number of single digit responses here, and that’s not uncommon for a lot of pro markets.

Other

The “other” this month was a withdrawal letter. I sent this withdrawal for what is, by far, the most common reason I’ve sent them in the last few years. The market went under and is now defunct. I sent this letter more as a professional courtesy than anything else.

Dear Editors,

I would like to withdraw my stories [story title] and [story title] from consideration at [publisher]. 

Thank you for your time.

Best,

Aeryn Rudel

Did I have to send this letter? Maybe not. The market basically disappeared, and this email bounced back with an “address not found” note. That said, I don’t know what happened on the other end of those submissions, and closing down a publication is obviously not something anyone wants to do. So it’s important to me to stay professional, wish the publisher well, and move on.

Acceptances

One acceptance this month, which broke a minor rejection streak I had going.

Acceptance: Sent 5/22/2018; Accepted 5/25/2018

Thank you for taking the time to submit your story [story title]. I’d be delighted to publish it on [publisher].

I’ve scheduled it for publication on 29 June, if this date changes I will let you know.

Thanks again for submitting your work.

This is my second publication with this particular market. The interesting thing here is that this is a form letter. Yep, form letters aren’t just for rejections. That said, you’ll often get a personal note after the initial form acceptance with requests for things like bios and author photos and/or info about the contract.


And that was my May. Tell me about yours.