When it comes to the ethics of getting work accepted at literary journals, the submission gods hath spoken, the prophet hath come down from the mountain top, and the commandments—only two!—have been delivered. And here they are:
1) Thou shall not decline an acceptance to a literary journal.
If a journal has taken the time to read a writer’s story or essay and accept it for publication, we believe it is ethical for the writer to accept the acceptance. The time to, in essence, decline a journal is before submitting to that journal, not after. We always give our clients (at least) 48 hours to review our journals lists. We hope this gives them enough time to check out the journals—if they wish—and let us know if there are any they’d like us to skip.
It’s always possible that some journals—especially those we save for the second round—won’t be perfect for everyone. By the second round, we’re usually focused on finding a home for a writer’s work, even if that means sending it to smaller or newer journals. And well but: that’s the point of our submission timing strategy: we take our chances with better journals in the first round, and then move to high-match accessible journals in the second round.
Keep in mind that we’ve vetted every journal in our algorithm (click here to read about our selection process). We strive to find journals, even newer journals, that we believe will have staying power. We check out websites for functionality, explore mastheads, and much more. Most writers trust us with our journal targets (our algorithm is a proven winner), so if you’d rather not do your own research, you can relax and let us do the work. We really have your best interests at heart.
2) Thou (as in we) shall withdraw a piece within 48 hours of getting an acceptance.
Just about every journal asks writers to withdraw their work “immediately” upon acceptance to another journal. The reason is simple: a journal doesn’t want to take the time to read and consider a story or essay that (in theory (see above)) is no longer available.
If we (or you) have any questions about an acceptance (for example, if the acceptance seems dependent on a rewrite), we’ll wait until a writer has received official confirmation. But we definitely do not wait until a piece has been published. Typically, unless a client lets us know that they’d like us to wait, we will begin withdrawing an accepted story or essay within 48 hours after the acceptance.
Of course, we want you to be happy with any acceptance. So please, if you’d like, before we start submitting, check out the journals on our lists. If there are a few you’d like us to skip, just let us know (within 48 hours of receiving the list). And remember this: Getting a story published—even at a relatively accessible journal—is difficult. We hope you’ll celebrate these little hard-earned victories.
Erik Harper Klass is the founder of Submitit, the WORLD’S FIRST full-service submissions and editing company. He has published stories and essays in a variety of journals, including New England Review, Yemassee, Slippery Elm, Summerset Review, and Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and he has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes.
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