On Having Pride

So, there’s this story I wrote a while back — a really fun one, I think, which got some very kind rejections but not yet a home.

And there’s a market, with a respected name and a long history, and maybe some recent troubles. This market looked like a good fit for this story. So I submitted back in May, and kept checking Duotrope to see whether they were responding.

And then that market did a bad thing. After much cursing and wailing and gnashing of teeth, I decided that as much as I had wanted to make that sale before, I would be ashamed to see my work appearing in that context. I could not tell my friends to go buy a copy of the magazine with my story in it. So I withdrew that story from that market. I’m not saying it’s the only right answer, and I will not judge the other stories that appear in that issue/magazine one way or the other.

So, why is this routine business decision the subject of a blog post? Because a number of new writers feel like they don’t have the power to do this; that if you’re not yet a big name that any publication is good for you. It’s the kind of thinking that gets writers to accept very little money for very good stories. Now, I have accepted small checks for stories I liked, but only in cases where I was proud to see my stories at those markets. I probably will never be rich and famous, but my good name is still a valuable commodity. And, fellow young writer, so is yours. Again: I’m not judging anyone who wants to submit and sell to that market, mind you, but I do urge people to remember that a sale is not always better than no sale when it comes to your reputation. It is better sometimes to remain unknown than to become known for the wrong thing.

[EDIT:

While talking to a couple other writers, it came out that some people don’t know how to write a withdrawal letter. Here is mine, feel free to copy and alter it.

Dear Editors,

I am writing to withdraw my story “TITLE” (Submitted DATE) from consideration at YOUR MAGAZINE. I apologize if this causes any inconvenience for you.

Thank you,

John Murphy

The “DATE” is useful to help them quickly identify the story in question. Remember: your goal here is to be professional, not to teach them a lesson. In this case, the sheer volume should serve in that capacity…]

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