The Hermit Poet

June 8, 2007

Awkward Poetry Moment and Some Suggestions

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:15 pm

Today I received an email from an online literary journal informing me that they would like to publish three of my poems. Great news, right? Except that these were three poems which had all been accepted within the last few weeks.

Now, I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. I had followed the standard protocol — notifying them of the withdrawal of these poems immediately after receiving word of their acceptance from the other journals. My initial submissions all indicated that the included poems were under consideration elsewhere and that I would notify them in the event that they were accepted elsewhere. In all respects, it appears to me that the problem lies in their bookkeeping.

As the editor of an online journal myself (and a victim of similar situation just recently), I can sympathize with the problem of keeping the records straight when there is a backlog of submissions to deal with. A withdrawal notice can easily be lost in the midst of so many new entries. So what can be done so that this doesn’t happen?

Some possible solutions for journals:

  1. Use an email header tag (eg. [WITHDRAW] ) or email alias ( to ensure that withdrawal notices are filtered to one location for easy reference
  2. Search your inbox for any subsequent emails from an author whose work you have decided to accept to verify that there have been no withdrawal notices sent (gmail is excellent for doing this
  3. Check your inbox daily and make notes on the submissions which have had poems withdrawn. I use gmail and will forward the original submission to myself and add a note at the top indicating which poems have been withdrawn — this keeps the note connected to the same “conversation” (gmail terminology).

In any case, this situation is one of the risks of allowing simultaneous submissions. While the poet certainly has an obligation to report when poems have been accepted elsewhere, the journal also has a responsibility to read and track such notices.

On the side of prevention, I think this also reflects the need for each journal to respond in a more timely fashion when it comes to submissions they like. If they sit too long on a poem they like, it may be taken by a faster acting journal. All three journals involved are places I would be happy to have my work appear in — so it’s a shame to have to say no to one.

3 Responses to “Awkward Poetry Moment and Some Suggestions”

  1. Pris Says:

    Hi Neil
    No, you weren’t at all at fault and you made good suggestions. I generally submit to one journal at the time but if a journal goes well past its stated time of decision-making, I write a note telling the that if they haven’t made a decision on the poems then I’m simultaneously submitting.


  2. shann palmer Says:

    Great advice! Thank you.

  3. Sam Rasnake Says:

    Your points are sound, Neil. I think you made all the correct moves. And you list good suggestions.

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