The Process of Withdrawing Poems

Over the past year or so, I’ve had the good fortune of placing several poems in several different publications, which has left me in the position of withdrawing said poems from journals. I have engaged in simultaneous submissions ever since I started sending out work several years ago. With the advent of software like submittable, this process is far more streamlined and efficient than it used to be, and for the most part I’m able to sit down for half hour or so and notify all the necessary journals of my wish to withdraw a poem.


I’ve noticed over the past six months to a year that it is not always as easy to withdraw a poem as it should be, so what follows is a genuine plea to all small literary journals, because I love you and want to support you all day everyday, please be as clear in your guidelines to withdraw as you are in your guidelines to submit. What follows is a short list of easy improvements that could make the process of withdrawing a poem(s) easy as pie:

1. Allow notes in Submittable. I like submittable. I use it all the time and the longer I submit work, the more I notice journals switching over to their software. However, if as a journal or press you allow submissions through Submittable, then take the next step and allow notes so that if a poet submits five poems and only wants to withdraw one, they can just add a note to their submission file.

2. Clear contact information. If a journal does not use the note feature in submittable, then the next step I take as poet is to check out their website to see who I need to email regarding my submission. If you have a paragraph in your submission guidelines that outlines the process an author should take to withdraw a piece, then you should have a link to the email/contact in that paragraph. It is frustrating to read a sentence that states “Simultaneous submissions are encouraged but let us know immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere,” and then have to scour the website for five minutes trying to find that person to contact.

3. Please consider allowing us to withdraw one poem/story instead of the entire packet. I understand from an administrative point of view, it might just be easier to withdraw and entire packet, take out the accepted poem, and then upload the updated packet (although as I type that out, I’m not convinced) but I’ll be honest, the only desire this inspires in me is to just withdraw the entire packet and be done with it.

To be clear, I love literary journals. I appreciate all the hard work that goes in to reading submissions and designing a journal (print and/or online). I want to keep sending my work to as many places as possible, but in the event that someone snags it first, the easier it is to notify other journals, the better.

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