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 Following etiquette, I sent a note requesting that my story be withdrawn from their consideration.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.