How to: withdrawing your book from consideration

| | 15 comments

I think this can be confusing for an author. What do you do when you’ve submitted your book to multiple places, and hurray! one of the publishers offers to publish it? Or maybe you’ve decided to go ahead and self-publish it.

First, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

1) Don’t submit your book somewhere you don’t actually want to publish it. Because if the answer is yes, and you say no, because you want to wait for a better offer or you really just don’t want to publish with that publisher, you were just throwing it at the wall to see where it stuck, you’ve just wasted someone’s (probably more than one someone’s) time and money. Only submit to publishers you sincerely would be happy to say yes to.

However, I recognize this happens all the time, where authors send to a bunch of publishers, just hoping one will say yes,  so I’m going to give you further advice below on how to handle it if one publisher says yes but you really want to hear from another…

2) If you have a list of your top publishers, you may want to submit to them and hold off on submitting to those who aren’t your first choice. Because you don’t want to take up the time of editors from whom you’d rather not hear “yes” first. If you know you favor one company over another, submit to them first. Oh, I know, this takes time and we live in the age of “I want it now” so this is painful and harder than sending them all out at once, but think about it, okay?

Now, how do you withdraw your submission?

First, keep a list of every publisher you’ve submitted it to and the date you submitted it. Maybe spreadsheets work for you, maybe you track it on your calendar, maybe you use a Word Doc. However you do it, keep track.

If you’re self-publishing, as soon as you’ve made the decision to self-publish, email every publisher the manuscript is with and let them know. Simple phrasing like this works well:

Dear publisher,

I’m writing to withdraw my manuscript XXX by XXX, submitted on date XXX, as it is no longer available for consideration.

Thank you.

Signature

See how I did that? No snide remarks, no poking at the publisher, just polite, full of the necessary information and to the point.

Now, maybe you’ve got an offer from the publisher on the table, but, darn it, 3 publishers still have it. You have two options here. One, you can send the letter above. Let’s recap:

Dear publisher,

I’m writing to withdraw my manuscript XXX by XXX, submitted on date XXX, as it is no longer available for consideration.

Thank you.

Signature


Or, alternately, maybe you really would like to hear what one of those three publishers have to say. Then you can send something like this email:

Dear publisher,

I’m writing about my manuscript, XXX by XXX, which I submitted on date XXX. I realize your normal response time has not yet elapsed. However, I’ve received an offer of publication from another publisher. You, awesome publisher, are my first choice and I would prefer to work with you, so I wonder if you could tell me where my submission is at in your queue. I’ve asked the other publisher to give me 2 weeks to consider their offer, would you be able to provide me with a response in this time frame?

Thank you.

Signature

In this situation, please do not ask for an immediate response, unless you’re ready for the immediate response to be “best of luck” because it’s unlikely any editor or publisher can drop everything and get your submission through their acquisitions process immediately. Offering 2 weeks is plenty of time. One week is probably a lot harder but do-able in some situations. Just keep in mind that many publishers do have an acquisitions process, so it’s not just one person reading the manuscript and saying yes–it often has to go through a team, and that takes time.

Now, some publishers will try to pressure you into giving an immediate answer to their contract offer. Don’t give in to the pressure. At this point, you can take the time you need to consider the deal details, do any further research into the publisher (and on that note, why are you submitting to a publisher you’re not familiar with, hmm?) and get responses from other publishers you’ve submitted to. That’s perfectly okay, even if you suddenly are just so overwhelmed you want to think about it for a few days. No one can (or should) rush you into signing a contract.

Regardless of what your situation, once a manuscript is no longer available, whether because you’ve chosen to make it unavailable or it’s been contracted, please do the people you’ve submitted to the much appreciated courtesy of letting them know. Think of how you’d like your time to be respected, and act accordingly, so we don’t spend limited resources (whether it’s time or money) on reading a submission that’s no longer available. We will all thank you profusely for this because our resources? They really are not inexhaustible!

15 thoughts on “How to: withdrawing your book from consideration”

  1. Dianne Fox says:

    This is really helpful, thanks. :)

    I do want to point out, though, that withdrawing a story after acceptance doesn’t always mean the author didn’t want to work with that publisher.

    In at least one case, seeing the actual contract made me change my mind about working with a publisher on a particular story. It was disappointing, because I had wanted to work with them very much.

    So, please, don’t think that all authors who withdraw their books after acceptance are doing it because they didn’t carefully think through who they were submitting to. That’s definitely not always the case. :)

    1. Angela James says:

      That is a really good point, thank you for making it. Although, in your case, I’d argue that not liking the contract does mean you don’t want to work with the publisher since you’re not going to work with the publisher :P

      But I generally assume if someone withdraws, they liked the pub they got an offer from and wanted to jump on it, or got better terms.

  2. Ash K. says:

    Excellent template. I know many writers will find it useful.

    I was fortunate to be in this situation recently and, believe it or not, I agonized over the email subject header even more.

    Eventually, I settled for my title followed by HAS OFFER ON THE TABLE.
    I wanted editors to be able to see at a glance that it wasn’t a simple nudge. It also netted really incredible results: only one editor immediately passed, saying they are backlogged, haven’t even gotten to my sub, and wished me luck if I chose to withdraw.

    I was surprised by the other editors’ willingness to pull out my submission on so short a notice. Although I didn’t specify a time frame, about eighty percent of my queries came back, all within the same week, and most of them within forty-eight hours.

    I like to think the subject heading got their attention. :-)

  3. Johnny Ray says:

    Hello Angela, I have a related question.
    Like I think many authors I have several manuscripts in circulation. Story a with agent b, story c with editor d, etc., etc.
    When you finally obtain a perfect match and a contract on one of them and would love to have all deals under one house, what is the best way to proceed?

    On an agent, my thoughts are, they have to like all of my work or nothing. I turned down two agents because of this.

    On editors, I think it is different. They have guidelines and some of the work might not fit. I think the most important thing with them is to convince them you can complete your commitments. And the question is, when do you let people know you have a related book sold and that you might be pulling the one they have from consideration?

    Sir John

  4. Dianne Fox says:

    @Angela Yes, that’s true. Though it wasn’t a case of not truly wanting to work with them when I submitted, which is what I took your meaning to be. :)

    I only decided I didn’t want to work with them after I saw the contract, which I wouldn’t have seen had they not accepted the story. So it was just one of those things where making a fully informed decision meant I had to feel guilty for making the publisher do work that, in the end, didn’t benefit them.

    But, you know, it’s funny how lower-than-promised payment and automatic contract renewal with no mention of royalties or additional payment will change a girl’s mind. :P

  5. Ash K. says:

    @Diana
    Lol a girl’s mind, indeed! :-) We are such a fickle breed…

    The hardest part for me was that I found something I liked about all of the contracts and being completely *in love* with two of them. I could have been happy with any of them but I wanted to be out of my mind delerious. I remember sitting with a handful thinking, “Oh, why couldn’t you be terrible so I can decline you?”

    I wouldn’t have queried if I wasn’t already interested…so multiple offers were hard to handle because I am a monogamous woman. :-)

  6. January Rowe says:

    Great post, Angela, thank you.

    Withdrawing is tough for me to figure out. Year and years ago, I submitted a novel to an early adopter of e-publishing. I hear nothing from them for years. I ultimately submit and get published elsewhere. At some point, my story is rediscovered by the original publisher, and I get a revise and resubmit email. My manuscript was evidently lost–for more than three years.

    How much consideration does a writer owe publishers who lose their manuscript? Is it a matter of how long it’s been lost? Or should authors always write a withdrawal letter?

  7. Fabulous article!! I wish I had that problem though. More than one publisher wanting my work.. LOL

  8. Great info, Angela!

    I’ll have to keep this in mind if I get multiple offers. Right now, I’d settle for one. LOL

    Have a great day!

  9. Lara Kairos says:

    Angela,

    This is a great advice! I also think it is important to know the publishers’ typical response times and policies on the simultaneous submissions. They often state the expected timeframes on their websites. It helps to stagger submissions by sending a story to the top choice epub first, then in a few weeks to the second choice epub and so on. If the first one rejects it, the work is already sitting in the queue with the second/third preference epubs.

  10. I really wish I would have known this seven months ago. I learned from my mistakes. I submitted my first book to multiple publishers and jumped on the first offer I got. I didn’t realize it was okay to withdraw a book and I honestly didn’t think it was good enough to get more offers. After I signed my contract, I got two more offers, one being from a very well known e-publisher. From now on, I will only sub to one press at a time, even if that means waiting a year to get that contract.

  11. Nancy says:

    Tremendous information! But here’s a switch … having withdrawn my story from two epublishers after accepting my first offer, can I ever go back to those withdrawn publishers and let them know my story is once more available?
    This is the issue, I was accepted,looked at the contract and made some tweaks recommended by an attorney … the epublisher didn’t like the changes and rescinded their offer. What are some pointers for working with that situation?

  12. Angela James says:

    I think that’s very possible to do, Nancy. Simply re-send your submission package (whatever it is that the publisher requires) and in your query letter, note that you had previously submitted and withdrawn your work, but that you ultimately decided not to sign the offered contract, so your book, is available and you continue to be interested in working with the publisher you’re submitting to.

  13. Lori Toland says:

    I had to do this last year and withdrawing from one of the presses hurt because I really wanted to work with the company.

    The problem was I had a revise/resubmit and my first response was to pull back the submission because I agreed with it but a pub friend advised me to send a nudge, rather than pull it because she said, “what if another editor likes it just the way it is?” In the end, I pulled it after I sent the nudge and that was hard because it was a company I respect and read from.

  14. Becky Black says:

    Great article. The kind of thing that is often quite hard to find out. There’s scads of information about how to submit your book, not so much on how to withdraw it without making a fool of yourself.

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