Withdrawing submissions: fail or ftw?

For the last few days, I’ve been stressing over submission etiquette. What happens when you want to withdraw a journal submission? Is it done? Or is it like abusing apostrophes: something not done in polite (and literate) society? 

I asked Tom Cho about my dilemma. I had recently submitted a poem to Peril, but a friend who had helped me workshop the piece asked if she could publish it in another journal. What was I to do? Could I withdraw my submission?

‘It should be fine,’ was Tom’s answer. ‘Just contact them and say that you are withdrawing the piece – and that you’re doing it ASAP to avoid any inconvenience. I’ve withdrawn pieces from journals and anthologies a few times before and never had a problem. If you’re polite and the piece hasn’t been accepted or isn’t too far in the production process, it should be fine…(If you know you’ve already been accepted by a journal, then it’s not very good to do. But even then I once withdrew a piece!)’

So there you go. Withdrawing submission ASAP is for the win. Withdrawing submission post-acceptance is a fail. For more on failing, visit failblog.org for all your classic fail moments.

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