Saturday, May 31, 2014

THE WRITE PATH!


This isn’t really late for “The Write Path” submission. I emailed mine directly to Carrie Butler when it was due, but then I had a few people ask me why I didn’t post my article. So here it is.

 
The Write Path

One lesson I tripped on along the way to publication still haunts me. I submitted to a magazine that seemed a good home for one of my stories. This was back in the day when simultaneous submissions were an invitation to get yourself blackballed from a trusting publisher. Nowadays, as long as you disclose that a manuscript is a simultaneous submission, it’s fine.

 It didn’t turn out fine for me twelve years ago. I never informed the publisher my story was a simultaneous submission, because initially, it wasn’t. I submitted the story to them alone. However, having not heard from them a year and a half later, I decided to remarket the story. I wanted to do it right. Following etiquette, I sent a note requesting that my story be withdrawn from their consideration.

I had no way of knowing their acceptance letter crossed in the mail with my request. Unfortunately, the publisher had already sent my story to press when my notice arrived, and she was upset. It was too late to stop the presses. I received a heated phone call. Yes, I apologized.

Eighteen months is a long time to wait, so what should I have done? The professional thing would have been to send a status inquiry at least once before ever sending a notice to withdraw the submission. Had I sent a simple note stating that I’d like to keep the story in circulation if they weren’t interested, and politely requested that they let me know how much more time they needed, the end result would have been better.

They would’ve informed me they’d already sent a letter of acceptance. And if they hadn’t sent one yet at the time they received my inquiry, they at least would have been aware I wanted a decision made soon. Perhaps they would’ve told me that they needed only a couple more weeks to make sure they had room for the story before formally accepting it.

My story was published, and because I’d sent the story to another publisher the same day I sent the first a notice to withdraw, I immediately let the second publisher know the story had already been accepted elsewhere.

When I received my free copy of the publication featuring my story, disappointment deflated any excitement I could’ve had. A few necessary words had been omitted from the first paragraph, leaving an unclear meaning in a verb-less mess. I tried to convince myself the omission wasn’t a last-minute decision to pay me back for putting them under stress, but occasionally I’ve had doubts. On the other hand, publishers take pride in the magazines they put out, so it’s unlikely there was any malicious intent. Still, because of that butchered paragraph, I’ve never whipped out that magazine for any bragging rights, nor have I dared submitting to them again.

The best thing to do, whether submitting to a print publication or an online journal, is to tell the editor or publisher upfront if your story is a simultaneous submission. If you feel you should have received a response by a given date and you haven’t, send a polite inquiry before you even think about withdrawing your piece.

They may have put time into pre-publication preparations just to make sure they could fit your story into available space before they let you know whether or not they could accept it. Just as you don’t want your time wasted, don’t waste theirs. No one should have to wait eighteen months, but if you do, then go the extra step to send out an inquiry before you make a rash decision. It beats kicking yourself later.

Happy Writing!

61 comments:

  1. Good post and good advice. I dropped by to say hello! I have been absent from blogging for a while, and I did miss your posts. It’s good to be back.

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    1. Thank you so much! Glad you're back!

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  2. Amen, Debbie. All you can do is be honest. It sounds like what you did was reasonable. If the publication that accepted your story feels the need to sabotage your story to get back at you, they are really hurting themselves. Short stories don't pay enough to get upset over, their value is more as a publication credit. You have the credit and they have degraded the quality of their publication.

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    1. Maybe, but I really prefer to think their typist was just in a bit much of a hurry, and careless, not intentional. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Richard, and thanks for stopping by.

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  4. Live and learn right? Sorry they edited your story though.

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  5. A cautionary tale indeed, but when you're new to submitting, how are you to know they'd still be actively considering your story 18 months after you sent it!

    I completely understand how a couple of words can ruin the sentence. I had a story where the MC went from being a strong 'this is who I am' character to practically begging her boyfriend to love her because a couple of words were reversed. I'd hope it was just bad editing in your case.

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    1. That's what I make myself believe. :-)

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  6. Polite you say? Do I have to? lol great tips indeed

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  7. Eighteen months?? Good grief !

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    1. Yeah. I don't wait that long anymore without sending a follow-up.

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  8. Thanks Debi, useful advice. Painful lesson ... thanks for passing on to us.

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    1. I had a similar incident when a story was accepted by 2 mags (I had been sent an erroneous rejection and so sent story on). The whole incident was upsetting for me as a new writer. There was nothing I could have done differently as the error was not mine but I had to deal with 2 unhappy eds. luckily, since then, both mags have bought several more if my stories but the moral is NEVER send simultaneous submissions.

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    2. The lesson stays with me. And now, even if a publication accepts simultaneous submissions, I will never again put myself through that.

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  9. I think anyone would've given up after 1 & 1/2 years, but now you know to send an inquiry before resubmitting.

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    1. Yeah, at least I learned something useful from the experience. :-)

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  10. Thanks for sharing your experience with us! Eighteen months seems like such a long time, but you're right, I guess a query before a withdrawal would have been better. A shame about the opening paragraph!

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    1. Yeah, and I don't know why I keep the copy. I mean, I never thought I was the type who gets into self torture, but I can't seem to get myself to throw it away. NO ONE ever sees it--it's hidden between books that no one in my family, other than me, would read. :-) I won't even put it in my file cabinet, because that gets attention now and then.

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  11. Thanks for sharing! I actually didn't know you should tell the editors your submitting to different places. Is with novels the same thing/ (Argh I don't have the question mark here!) Thanks!

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    1. Yes, novels or short stories, either way. :-) Thanks for visiting.

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  12. I would say that 18 months of silence was a pretty good indicator that they weren't interested. Bad luck that the acceptance letter crossed paths with your withdrawal letter, but when you explained, the editor SHOULD have understood. I doubt the typo was deliberate. As you said, it would hurt the credibility of their magazine. But it's good advice to inquire before submitting elsewhere when you've promised an exclusive submission.

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  13. Wow that seems like a long time to me but I am not in that world at all so maybe that is the norm? You give great advice and it almost seemed to be kismet that it should cross paths like that...or Murphy's law. I don't know but you have been able to learn from that and help many others since then and writing it here gives very good advice to many

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    1. I appreciate that. If I can help someone else avoid the same mistake, then at least something good came of it. :-)

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  14. The same sort of crap is done to authors in scholarly publications. The author pours their heart into a submission and the recipient sits on it for over a year. It is a shame that the author gets punished in multiple ways. Good advice and glad things have gone well despite that issue.

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    1. Thanks. I can really be irritated if this had happened with an article in a scholarly publication, because that usually involves research. Not to say it's harder to write than fiction, but it can require a lot of fact-searching and time. Worse, some of the statistics found one year for an article may change in the next year, percentages and things like that.

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  15. Great advice! But gosh, that submission you experienced sounds so dreadful! Sorry you ever had to go through that...

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    1. Yeah, but at least I learned something from it. :-)

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  16. Good advice, Debi. I wonder why that magazine didn't send you a status update? I would think 18 months is a long time to wait and they should have let you know your story was still under review. :)

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    1. That would have been nice. But it does work both ways, and I could've sent an inquiry, which I didn't. Thanks for stopping by, Loredana.

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  17. I hear you about not whipping out that copy of the magazine and showing it off with pride. I have a few of those myself.

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

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    1. Yeah, well I hope that pile of mine doesn't grow to fast.

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  18. It does annoy me when people don't communicate properly, especially today when e-mails are so quick and easy. When I worked as a freelance journalist I used to send so many feature proposals and got a tiny response [and I don't think my ideas were that bad!]. SD
    http://www.sandradanby.com/

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    1. Yes, an email earlier telling me that they were still considering my story would've been nice. Thanks for stopping by, Sandra.

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  19. Quite the lesson learned. Thanks for passing it along!

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    1. You are welcome. Hopefully it will help somebody else avoid the same mistake I made. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  20. I can't imagine how glacially slow things were in those days when you could only send a story to one magazine at a time! Yeah, I would have assumed after 18 months they'd long discounted or forgotten it, but goes to show you can never be sure. I wouldn't have thought there was anything malicious in their editing of your piece, but again you can never tell! I would mark it on your writing CV, just don't show it to anyone. :)

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    1. I don't think it was done out of malice either, but it was still upsetting. Thanks for reading, Nick.

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  21. Good advice, Debi. Sorry to hear this happened to you. I had a similar experience--when I got my first agent, several others were considering my manuscript. I was so excited by FINALLY having an agent's interest that I quickly informed the others that I now had representation, even though I'd heard that it's good etiquette to give the other agents a chance to respond first.

    Did I ever pay for that mistake! My "big" agent ended up being a big disappointment, and it turns out one of the people who was considering my manuscript has had some amazing success with sales in my genre! Thankfully, he was most gracious when I pulled my manuscript from him years ago, and I've sent him a new book to consider. I won't make the same mistake twice.

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    1. I hope it all turns out well for you, Holli.

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  22. Having worked for some magazines I'm guessing it was a word count issue that made them wrongfully edit it. It is a long time to wait though...

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    1. I once worked for a small magazine too, so I've considered the word count thing, as well as possibly avoiding an orphan word in the layout. :-)

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  23. I think you're being a little too hard on yourself in this story. I know, it's kind of what we as writers excel at, but it's true ;) While everything you say about the ideal way of handling things is true, people make mistakes and in the grand scheme of things, your oops was a small one ;)

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    1. Yeah, fairly small, but a good lesson nonetheless. :-)

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  24. It's a little hard to tell a publisher it's a simultaneous sub if they take 18 months to accept it. You did what was right. They didn't.

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  25. Patience, I guess, is the name of the game in this business, but it's not easy. Way too long a wait, though.

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  26. 18 months is way too long...
    I always say - everyday we live and learn.

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  27. That was indeed a tough turn of events. I must admit though that eighteen months is also enough time for them to let you know that they were interested, even if they didn't know exactly when they'd publish it. It's also odd that they would have sent it to press before you confirmed that their acceptance letter was acceptable to you. An inquiry letter, it seems, would have been best, but I would have taken a year and a half without a response to mean they weren't interested. I'm glad it was published though.

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  28. Sorry you had that bad experience, Debi. Live and learn, I guess. Thanks for sharing your experience with others. :)

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  29. This is why I have such great respect for writers. A writer's perseverance is something we can all learn from :-) I'm glad that you never give up Debi!

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad I didn't either, but there are days ... :-)

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  30. This is a great post with an important reminder. It's tough sending out submissions, and waiting months for a response. But you're correct about how to handle it. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and advice.

    And thank you also for visiting my blog. My sincerest apologies I've been slow to respond. These last couple months have been some of the craziest in my life (in a good way). I've had to set blogging on the back burner for a short time. Hopefully I will be back up and running in the next month or two though.

    To answer your question, there isn't a date by which I need the reviews on Amazon. It's under consideration, and the more reviews, social media presence and downloads it garners while it's being considered, the better. But, fingers crossed that I'll learn more by the end of July. Thank you so much for the support and interest.

    I don't know if you already got a copy, but I'll shoot you a free one in case. Again, my apologies for being slow to respond. I'm looking forward to seeing more updates on your blog and staying in touch.

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    1. Thanks, Emilyann, and I'm looking forward to the book.

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