Over the years, this post (yes, this one!) has consistently been a heavy-traffic zone on this blog. A lot of you want to know about using Submittable/Submishmash! I’ve decided to make a thorough update to my advice in this blog post, as Submittable’s technology has changed and improved over time. You can read my most up-to-date advice on submittable by following this link to the new post. -kd
I’ve always enjoyed reading the Google search terms that direct people to my blog. One of my favorite Google referrals of all time was “trying to contact the version of me who lives on another planet.” I was sorry that my blog would have been of little help for that Google user, but not a little amused that someone out there was researching such an important topic. But at least once per day, I see some permutation of the question “how do I withdraw a piece from Submishmash?” or “what does it mean when my submission’s status is marked In Progress?” in this blog’s search results. If there are that many of you with questions about navigating submission managers, I think it’s time for a little public service announcement about all things Submishmash (a.k.a. Submittable).
First, a disclaimer: this is one lowly editor’s advice about how to understand and approach Submishmash/Submittable. Not all editors are the same in the ways they run their publications; while I am trying to give the most broad advice possible, I can’t speak for everyone in publishing. I also do not have complete and unending knowledge about the intricacies of Submishmash, as I do not work for them.
Okay. Are we good? Let’s talk about those little status indicators you see to the right of your submissions list. When you first send your work, you’ll see the stats marked at “received.” A submission marked received is simply one that has made its way through the submission process unscathed. Depending upon the editor’s Submishmash preferences, she may have received an email alerting her that you’ve submitted work. This status is the equivalent of an envelope’s having arrived in an editor’s mailbox; nobody’s opened the envelope yet, but your work has arrived safely.
“In Progress” is the next stage of a submission’s life cycle. As soon as an editor does something–anything–with your submission, your work is marked “in progress.” The editor may not have even opened your work yet–she may have only assigned it to a first reader. Or, perhaps she’s read your work thoroughly. She may have voted (yes, there’s a voting feature in Submishmash; editors can give your work a “yes,” a “no,” or a “maybe” vote as they read) or made notes to other readers about her thoughts on your work. The reading process can take quite a while, and there is no way for you to divine just how much progress your “in progress” submission has made, or how readers have voted on your work. Try not to read too much into this stage of the process. Patience, friends.
Once the editor has made a firm decision about your work, she will use Submishmash’s internal tool to generate either a letter of acceptance or a letter of rejection that Submishmash emails to you immediately. If you see your work marked with the bright green label “accepted” or the red label “declined,” a letter should be awaiting you in your email inbox.
There’s one more status you might see in Submishmash, and that’s “Withdrawn.” Let’s talk about withdrawing work.
There are two good reasons to withdraw work. One is that your material has been accepted elsewhere. If you get an acceptance from a venue, you should immediately withdraw your work from every other editor who’s considering it. The other is that you have realized this piece is horrific, that you have sent it out undercooked, and that you would rather die than have it viewed by the reading public. Hey, it happens. If these events transpire, you should click on the submission’s title in Submishmash to open the view of your file, then click the “Withdraw” link and type in your reason for having withdrawn work. If your writing was accepted elsewhere, it’s nice to tell the editor which publication will be printing it. It’s interesting for us to know, and we’ll be happy for you. If you’ve realized your work is undercooked, you don’t need to say anything at all.
Poetry presents a tricky problem when it comes to withdrawing work. Most journals ask writers to submit multiple poems in one submission file. If one poem among five is picked up for publication elsewhere, then what? When it comes to The Los Angeles Review, I prefer that writers send an email to me to say that work has been accepted elsewhere. I can then put a note in the submission that the reader should disregard the poem that’s no longer under consideration. If you withdraw the entire file, it’s possible that the editor could simply archive your entire submission (archiving submissions removes them from the editor’s view pretty much for good–the archive is a deep and spooky territory much like Limbo) as she would a rejected piece, and you may never see a response notice. Check individual publications’ guidelines before deciding how to withdraw a single poem from among many, but in general, email is your best bet.
It’s worth noting that when you use the withdraw link in Submishmash, the editor of the publication gets an email alerting her of your action. Bear in mind that if you’re a chronic withdawer of submissions, those emails are going to get a little old. The reality of the withdrawal email should also tell you that, once a piece is under consideration, it is not, I repeat, not the time to tinker with and revise your work. In the last submission cycle for LAR, I had a gentleman submit work, withdraw it immediately (I later learned he was revising it each time), then submit it again. He did this up to three times every day for over one week. At first, I thought he was attempting to be rude or to make some sort of bizarre statement with this behavior. Eventually, I emailed him and asked what on earth he was trying to do, and telling him that I’d had enough. He was chagrined to learn that we were alerted to every withdrawal and resubmission, and I was chagrined to learn that he wasn’t trying to be a jerk, as I’d thought, but just had the worst publication strategy of all time. Learn from this comedy of errors, friends.
I hope this public service announcement has been of help, writers. Go forth and submit well, often, and with, I hope, much success.