There is an important administrative and business side to writing. Editing and revisions do take up time, as do submissions — sending out short stories and poems to different literary magazines and journals. Some are traditional paper journals, some are online and others are a hybrid. Most publications have submission guidelines some more detailed than others. Back in the day you had to write to the magazine and journal and request along with a self addressed and stamped envelope just get basic information like word counts and submission dates. Also to get a sense of what type of writing they were looking for, it was often suggested that you should buy a sample issue. Many times I’d mail in a check, have it cashed and never receive it. Others I found in bookstores.
The internet has made things easier to do this required research. Publications post their guidelines on line and give a statement of what they are looking for in their calls for submissions or have samples or some archives online. Going online to research publications — still does take time away from time from writing but again it is a required part of the publishing process.
Keeping track of submissions and different publications and submission history takes time and it helps to be organized about it. But it’s necessary — you cannot get clips or published without doing this work. Generally, whenever I receive a rejection, I do a review of the story or poem, and then try to figure out where and when next to submit. I try to stay on top of this but generally I fall behind.
In their guidelines, most publications will give you an estimate of how long they will keep/review work, re: “response time,” and allow you to query and withdraw — which is all completely acceptable. If I think a response time is too long from publication guidelines then well I don’t submit — again it’s about doing your research.
Since it is the beginning of the year, I sat down cleaning out my files — I had one submission over one (1) year old — so I wrote a very polite and courteous email asking to withdraw the story, even if it was still in a slush pile somewhere.
In return I got a vague email back saying it was still under review and they accept simultaneous submissions. So I wrote again requesting they please confirm the withdrawal of my story. Another email arrived saying that they don’t “do” withdrawals — because if I was chosen for publication the copyright would revert to me after three (3) months.
Since the publication raised the copyright issue (not me), I wrote again, politely asking for withdrawal, explaining I have a copyright on the story and could provide it if needed, and I also explained that copyright my work because of a previous issue with submissions, and I also have the policy of withdrawing my work after one (1) year — because of a dual acceptance without notification.
And to note, I never alleged any one wanted to steal my work in this withdrawal request or ever before. Usually I write this form withdrawal request email and I get a short email back confirming it, without a problem. Often, there is a short apology stating they made an error and the rejection should have been sent sooner, it was overlooked, etc.
Up to now all of the publications I’ve dealt with previously, have understood my request to withdraw, and they have been respectful to me, as I am of their submission rules — but this recent experience was just awful. And believe me, I’ve gotten some vicious rejections before but nothing like this — this was a burn plain and simple for no good reason what-so-ever.
The reply that I received in response from my second email/stating that I have copyright on the story and again how I wanted to withdraw it, etc., was rude and mean, and malicious and generally not called for. And I did write back, and told them as much and then thanked them for the confirmed withdrawal/rejection. This time, addressing my email reply to both the Editor in Chief and Fiction Editor by name — I’m unsure who was actually writing to me on this email correspondence/chain because they never signed their name.
To note, I am a female writer/feminist, and these two editors listed on the masthead are women — which also gives me pause, and makes me even sadder about the whole experience.
I’m not going to mention their names or the name of the publication/web site because they don’t deserve any kind of recognition: good, bad or indifferent.
What really strikes me — is that there are so many writers out there competing to have their work read and published — there is no reason to be mean and heartless to someone.
Sometimes it does take awhile to place a story or a poem but I’m glad they have “officially rejected me.” There is a better place for my short story, it my take me years to find it but I don’t care — I’m hoping there are better kindred spirits out there.
The mystery/female editor did write back another nasty email reply — I saw only the subject reply from my inbox: “We have over 30 years experience.” I deleted the email unread and emptied the trash. They can have the last word if they want, but I don’t need to read it — it can go into void. Thirty (30) years should account for some basic courtesy. Apparently even the most expensive and exclusive writing education cannot buy you that.
This past week, I checked their website. There are only two (2) issues posted on their archive from November 2018 and December 2018 so the site has not been updated in a year. They do have a banner sign up saying that updates are underway, and perhaps they are — but the lapse of a year of postings for an online a magazine that does not claim to be an “annual” is troubling.
So, I still think I had every right to withdraw my work. Editors whatever their credentials, MFA graduates or not, and/or volunteering their time — should not give you a hard time or mock you because you make a request that’s administrative in nature.
As a writer you deserve a certain amount of courtesy and respect when it comes to your work. If you want to pull it, it should be your right to pull it for whatever reason.
Especially if you are being polite and respectful — which I was.