Normally, I am opposed to simultaneous submissions. For non-writers, that is the term given to the process of sending the same story to two or more potential publishers at the same time. I usually have enough work that it isn't necessary, and with the amount of submitting I tend to do, it's easy to lose track of who has what.
However, I recently sent a flash fiction piece to a web publisher that advises it takes up to 75 days to respond. During that time, my friends at Open Casket Press sent out an email asking for stories to fill its Carnival of Horrors anthology. I was one of the authors contacted, as I'd recently been published in their Dead Christmas antho. Because I never do this, I figured I might as well send the story along with one other flash piece and see what happened.
Both were accepted. Then I received the following rejection in my email, prompting a longer exchange which follows:
Dear Christopher Nadeau,
Thank you for your submission to [our site] I regret to inform you that we are unable to use it at this time.
Two concepts here really nail the surreal aspect of the piece: the faceless friend, and the cyclical nature of the plot. My mind went wild with possibilities for what is going on here. However, I prefer when the surreal nature and cyclical aspects of a story have more direction, more support. Why is the "friend" faceless? How is it a friend at all if the MC wants to kill him? How is the friend recognizable without a face? In other words: what is the lack of face emblematic of? The same questions apply to the cycle. Without understanding more about where these concepts of bondage, facelessness, and the void-realm come from, there isn't much acting as foundation to the recursion. There's no anchor. Just throwing out ideas, but, for example, what if the facelessness represented the staleness of a relationship, and the cyclical nature represented the fact that we all keep trying to find new love when old love is lost. I can understand that as-is the author might think, "But this can go in whatever direction the reader wants!". That's all well and good, but when a piece is THIS open, this "meta", it feels like more outline than plot.
-- First Editor
I understood that the faceless killer/victim was being cycled from one person to the next, but there's no explanation of why each became a killer, or why they suddenly wanted to free the next man from bondage. The whole thing had an unreal/dream feel and I kept waiting for you to say that he woke up
-- Second editor
Unfortunately due to the insanely massive amounts of submissions in our slush pile, we cannot reconsider your piece at this time.
We wish you good luck in placing the story elsewhere.
Thanks for the input. The story actually has been accepted elsewhere but I was unable to remove the submission.
Dear Christopher Nadeau,
Congratulations on your story's acceptance elsewhere, although I should point out for future reference that we aren't able to take simultaneous submissions at EDF because of our publication schedule and contract process.
Could you let me know why you were unable to inform us of your withdrawal, so that we can address the problem? Your assistance with this would be greatly appreciated, as we need to know if our contact form isn't working or if there's some other communication obstacle of which we are unaware.
Yet Another Editor
My Second Reply:
I was never able to locate a method for withdrawing the story and the one email I sent apparently wasn't received. Normally I have a personal policy against simultaneous subs but this was a special case where a story was commissioned. I can guarantee it will not happen again.
Yeah, don't do what I did. I probably should have kept my mouth shut (or my fingers inert) but considering the time-line of acceptance of publication, I thought it better to just be honest and take any lumps.