Withdrawing an Accepted Story or We’ll Always Have Paris

I’ve withdrawn an accepted story – crazy, right?
I continue to walk the path of traditional publication, because it suits me. There are so many exciting genre and literary publications out there to submit to. More than I could ever write stories for. I like working with editors, and even slush readers. The term “gatekeepers” isn’t a dirty word to me. Sure they may have their preferences, but these people put their eyeballs on more stories in a month than I read in a year.
The majority of editors I deal with are doing what they do for the love of a great story (the same reasons that I’m writing). Even in my slender experience working with editors over galleys, I’ve learned new skills and techniques that I can apply to the next story.
But there are pitfalls, too. Editors, like the rest of us, are human. They have day jobs and families and a million other commitments. Early in 2013 I sold a story to a certain market, I signed the contract and then waited for galleys, publication, and eventual payment. This is usually a slow boat, and I know that, but after a year passed with no word of a planned publication date for the anthology my story was to appear in, I began to get a little frustrated.
This is the reason contracts are so useful. The contract I signed was a basic one and included a reversion clause (most do, but after this experience, I’ll be making sure all my contracts have one). A reversion clause basically states that if the publisher fails to publish said story in a specific amount of time (usually 12-18 months), all the rights revert back to the writer.
I was torn. I know writers who have had great experiences with this publication and the editor seems like a stand-up guy. There’s a temptation to just give it a little more time. Part of me wanted to just be nice and let things lie, but I also felt like I was abandoned on the wrong end of a broken promise. Besides, in the turbulent world of small publications, eZines and podcasts, “someday soon” often never comes. Finally, after the twelve months plus an extra month grace period, I decided to take my story back.
Even though I’m beginning the submission process again with this one, I feel better. So much so that I’ve decided to make this a personal policy with all my stories (hopefully won’t come up that much!).

It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of my little stories don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

But I believe that – just as I hold myself accountable to treat editors, publishers, and slush readers professionally – I’m going to hold the editors who buy my works to the terms of their own contracts. Since payment is almost always “upon publication,” all a writer has between when a story is bought and when it is published is a promise – So it’s a good idea to make sure that promise is in the form of a contract.

Making a sale is always exhilarating, and when things don’t work out you can remember what Bogart said to Bacall at the end of Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.”

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