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Becoming a Better Writer

5 Reasons to Withdraw Your Submission (And What an Editor Really Thinks About Each One)

There comes a time in every writer’s career when he or she must withdraw a submission. Sometimes the decision is a tough one (such as when you just got an acceptance but were hoping for a better publication). Other times it’s easy (when those inconsiderate editors haven’t responded to your submission after nineteen months). Whatever the case may be, make sure you withdraw your submission with class.

There are many reasons why submitters choose to withdraw. Here are the five most common reasons, along with our opinions about each one.

1. Accepted Elsewhere

Our normal reaction to this reason is an implied “Congratulations.” Occasionally, we will kick ourselves for having not accepted it sooner. Other times, we will scratch our heads as we wonder why this piece was accepted anywhere.

2. Wrong Version

Another common reason for withdrawing a submission is when an author sends the wrong version. Whether by honest mistake or carelessness, we’re never too excited by this decision. We don’t say anything out loud, but we hope you are more careful next time.

3. Noticed a Typo

Really? A typo? If you think a typo is going to be the difference between acceptance and rejection, then you really don’t know how this works. No matter how bad the typo is, you are better off not calling attention to the fact that you sent something that was “messed up.”

4. No Reason Stated

Thanks for wasting our time. We hope the experience was worthwhile for you.

5. Major Revisions

Why the hell did you submit it in the first place? Tell you what: don’t bother to submit your major revisions to us.

If you need to withdraw a piece, we understand. The best withdrawals are simple and honest. Thank the editor for his or her time. You certainly don’t need a long-winded apology. Our feelings won’t be hurt. Of the over ten thousand submissions we’ve received at Bartleby Snopes, I can only recall a handful of stories I wished hadn’t been withdrawn. None of those times did I beg or cry.

A word of caution: withdrawing with the intent to submit again draws unnecessary attention (not the good kind) to your submission. If you want a publisher to consider your story, don’t withdraw it. Once you send it, let the editors read it and decide if they want it. Typos can always be fixed later. You probably have more important things to do than withdraw your story. In fact, we all do.

Nathaniel Tower

Nathaniel Tower is the founding and managing editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. Find out more about Nathaniel at nathanieltower.com.

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4 Comments

  1. You sound cranky. I will fax you a hug. And some smileys to sprinkle in your posts.

    I’m guessing that an explanation (at least a brief one) in any withdrawal is an absolute must. Editors have long memories and a little courtesy goes a long way. While maybe 90% of notes to an editor yield no response, that does NOT mean that they are not read. Is that a fair statement?

    I take it that the real title of this post is “Top 5 Reasons to Withdraw Your Submission (And Why You Shouldn’t). The TL;DR version of which is “Don’t. Unless it is accepted somewhere else.”

    First, letter perfect submissions make your *editing* easier. So I agree, yes, typos are bad, and me withdrawing-and-replacing them is worse. Maybe I don’t want to lose my place in the queue, or confound the list of a few first reader replies you already received. Maybe I don’t want to attract attention to the oopsie. Maybe you *like* my typo.

    Second, submitting my plainly unprofessional/undeveloped story (or the wrong file) is bad, but pointing it out is only debatably worse. On the one hand if I *really* feel the need to say something, I guess I will have a chance when I reply to the rejection letter, since half-baked crap will be rejected with a slap anyway. But the temptation to duck (by withdrawing first) is overwhelming.

    Third, blank withdrawal reason is just rude and insidious. I agree that’s a no-brainer. Shame on me. Up the Prozac, immediately.

    I might add that, if I realize too late that I have violated a submission guideline in a most heinous fashion (length, format, genre, multiple submissions, etc), that I would plainly rather withdraw, saying, “Silly me.” …that is surely better than getting found out and given pains in a piercing rejection letter.

    You want your job easier. I want rejections that are easy to take. We may wrestle till the end of time over that one.

    TTT

    • Thank you for the thoughtful reply. Yes, I think you have correctly read between the lines here. Unless there is a great reason to withdraw (such as an acceptance), don’t do it.

      No need for hugs or smileys. We aren’t cranky at all.

  2. Good post. I didn’t think you were cranky as TimTim said. If anything it sounds like he has been rejected once too many.

    The bottom line is, a writer’s job is never done. This is probably the number one reason other than being accepted elsewhere for withdrawal. There is always something that can be further elaborated / truncated and as a person who submits for the first time, you want to ensure that your best writing is presented. If you were to contact those that have been accepted, I bet you would find that they have a revision or two that could be made.

    To be rejected can be damaging to a writer.

    • Thank you for the comment, Anderson. You are right that there’s always something that can be changed. What author is 100% satisfied with anything he/she has written or published? However, once you have submitted a piece, I argue that you are putting your own seal of approval on it. You shouldn’t submit anything unless you feel it is good enough to be published. As tempting as it may be to withdraw a piece to improve it, the best approach is to leave a piece alone when it is under consideration. There is always the opportunity to edit after a piece is accepted.

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