Before I launch into my semi-regular hemming and hawing about all things writerly, I have to start this blog with the good news that’s had the internet buzzing today: poet Dean Young has undergone a successful heart transplant. He’s someone who’s been on my mind, and on the minds of many of his readers, and I’m so happy to hear that he’s on the road to wellness. I hope you’ll join me in sending good wishes to Mr. Young and his family, and to the family of the heart donor.
Okay. Now for the hemming and hawing. Using Submishmash (a great service that’s offered free of charge to publications like ours–how cool is that?) this reading period has been enlightening in a variety of ways–it’s made it easier to see what our acceptance rates really look like without spending a huge amount of time with a spreadsheet (hint: rates are far lower than you’d see on Duotrope.com), and how many submissions each genre is considering (several genres have nearly doubled in submissions since last issue. Wow.). One of the more interesting things Submishmash lets us do is handle withdrawals of pieces. Writers can withdraw work directly through the submissions manager, and the system sends an email to me to inform me of the withdrawal.
Can I just take a moment to note that all this talk of “withdrawal” is going to wreak havoc on my search engine traffic? I shudder. Moving on.
In the past, when we simply used email for submissions, I’d get an message every now and then from a poet who’d had a piece accepted somewhere else. I’d usually send them back an email saying “congrats, and we’ll keep the other poems under consideration.” No biggie, right? So it perplexed me when another editor friend would rail against writers withdrawing pieces. He felt pretty strongly that it was fundamentally unprofessional to withdraw materials, while I felt that, if an editor’s going to accept simultaneous submissions, she’d better expect a withdrawal here or there.
Now that I see emails announcing every withdrawal in every genre, not just in my own, I’m beginning to see what my friend was talking about. Yes, we continue to get the run-of-the-mill “this piece was just accepted at XYZ journal” withdrawals, and they continue to be no biggie. But I’ve discovered that there are some wacky withdrawal notes, too. I’m not going to tell you in which genre these are most prevalent, and I’m going to paraphrase the notes to protect the guilty, but this is what I’ve been finding:
“I decided that I’ve sent out too many submissions and need to take some back.”
“I don’t like this piece anymore. Sorry.”
“I decided to do some more editing. Not sure when I’ll get around to that. I’ll resubmit it to you later.”
And my personal favorite:
“I don’t exactly know why I’m withdrawing this piece–I just woke up with the strong impulse to do so.”
Okay. Now I understand what my editor friend was saying. This is not good.
If current trends hold steady, we’ll consider approximately 3,000 poems for issue 10. That’s poems alone. If you send me something, asking me to take the time to read and consider it thoroughly, then withdraw it for no discernible purpose other than a strong impulse, that’s not only a waste of your time, it’s also a waste of mine. And when I see more work from you in the slush pile, I’m likely to read the other 2,999 poems before yours, because I know you might capriciously pull your pieces before I can properly consider them.
If you have a poem accepted elsewhere and let me know, that’s great. That’s appropriate, and polite. I’ll be happy for you. But, can we agree not to withdraw things because of hard-to-pinpoint impulse? Let’s shake on it.