What are journal editors to do with double-publishing writer?


Over at the 32 Poems blog, Jessie Carty writes about something all too familiar to editors of literary journals: the dreaded double-publish.

Recently, I was reading my contributor copy of a print literary magazine. Let’s call it Saddlestitch Review. I was reading along when I recognized an author’s name. I thought, “Neat, I also published that poet.” (You might see where I am going with this). But, the poem felt all too familiar. I reviewed my records and noted that I had not only published this poet, but I had also published this poem.

I also helped to revise/edit the poem in question.

The double-publish. I had to say it again.

I would like to say this has never happened to me when I edited journals, but it has. It’s mostly happened with stuff I’d accepted for an online journal, but not always.  Once I published a whole group of poems in an issue of La Petite Zine, only to see that same group in a print journal while browsing the tables at a bookfair. Another poet, let’s call him Douglas, republished a poem in Painted Bride Quarterly from his already published book (he fessed up to this after the issue went live, but we let it slide), but then, six months later published yet again in Nerve. So that’s a triple-publish.

The thing is, the world of editors, and especially poetry editors, is small, and it just so happens I was friends with Ross Martin, then the poetry editor at Nerve, and pointed out the triple-published poem. And here’s where editing an online publication has its benefits: we both took the poem down in the same afternoon, effectively un-triple-publishing the work.

All this went down almost 10 years ago, and it still amazes me that there was a debate for writers of whether or not publishing work in an online journal really “counted,” and so going ahead and re-publishing a work in another journal would be no big deal. There were panels on this subject at AWP, with titles like “online versus print” and so on.

I think the “prestige debate” is past us. But there are still writers who don’t think it’s that big of a deal to double-, even triple-publish their work. I know I know I know–it’s not a war crime, no one is getting hurt, there are larger things to worry about in this world.

Call it delusions of grandeur, but I think it’s safe to say most editors of literary journals feel very proprietary about their selections. They like to feel that they’ve discovered something. It’s that feeling that in part keeps them going through the slush pile for no pay.

So then picture that same editor who sees the same poem/story/essay in another journal. It’s like seeing your boyfriend/girlfriend having conjugal relations with another boy/girl by the locker between classes. Or something. In the case of Jessy Carty, she went the classy route rather than some kind of public outing: she wrote both editor of the other journal and the poet. “The editor was not aware and offered future accreditation for anything they publish online,” she writes. I think means it was published for the second time online, which is a twist of what I’ve seen in the past.

“But the poet?” she asks. “Never responded.”

I’ve written maybe two double-published writers in my life, and neither of them responded as well.

What’s an editor to do?


22 Replies to “What are journal editors to do with double-publishing writer?”

  1. I still can’t get over hearing a poet explain their many publication credits by saying that they don’t follow the “rule” of single submission. They sent poems to as many journals as they felt like.

    Those writers who never answered you probably didn’t for just that reason. They knew they did it.

    It was hammered home to me by a poetry mentor (also an editor) that you always follow the guidelines, they’re there for a reason. And also that publishing online is publishing (even a video of you reading).

    What to do? Maybe never publish that writer ever again? It’s a tough call.

  2. Aren’t there simultaneous submission rules or commandments or something? Thou shalt not accept in silence the dub-pub of thine poem, essay, recipe, interjoke [or humorview if your old new school]…ahem…

    I have submitted simultaneously to publications with their blessings. And one time at poemcamp I was accepted for the same poems. The second editor was sorry he hadn’t responded sooner and asked if I would submit something else. Not a problem.

    It seems silly to me that a writer would want the same piece published in multiple places. If I saw that I would think that writer a dumbass and lose some or all respect. Courtesy, people…c’mon we’re not animals…even though I do feel like a monkey at a typewriter praying to bang out some Shakespearean grandeur…

    I think though, that if guidelines include what to do about simulsent pieces then more writers would try to be less sneaky about it.

    I wonder if I can get some interest on those 2 cents?

    Later WWAATD peoples…

  3. It isn’t even about simultaneous submissions, at least not entirely. Writers will have a poem/story/cnf piece publishing in Journal #1, then maybe a year later decide to double-publish it in Journal #2. It might be a matter of print-then-online or online-then-print, or both print or both online.

    Sending out work at the same time to several pubs is sort of the standard practice unless otherwise mentioned in the guidelines, and that’s fine. What’s also standard is telling the editors of the other journals where you’ve sent the work that it’s been accepted for publication and could you please take it out of consideration. All that is what most everybody does.

    What some people do is let a work be published, never tell any of the editors, or forget, or not care, and let the same work be published somewhere else, never telling anyone. The normal contract and implied understanding, for most editors, is that the work has never been published, and this will be the first time the work will see the light of day. That’s the whole first serial rights, copyright reverts back to author upon publication thing. So I would guess the odds are, if a writer allows, consciously or not, for a piece of writing to be double-published, they have violated the double-publish Journal #2’s contract, in letter or in spirit.

    I just read somewhere, I think it was Roxanne over at HTMLGiant, that it didn’t bother her. Like I said, I know it’s not a war crime, but it seems to me if I went and re-published something PANK took of mine without telling either PANK or the second journal, it would be pretty lame, not standard practice and, I daresay, unprofessional. But I’d never do that because I’m a nice guy!

    1. It hurts me, Daniel, that after all this time, you still spell my name with two ns. This was a really interesting post. I’ve thought about it off and on all day. I definitely understand the frustration. I guess I just don’t have the time, nor do I assume anyone does, to get riled up about this. Shady people are going to be shady people. Reprints are fairly standard practice. This is people reprinting their own work without acknowledging that the work is previously published. Make a habit of that sort of thing and it will catch up to you.This feels like one of those shady writer habits that will only bite someone in the ass. At the same time, given the low circulations of so many magazines, the relative lack of compensation, etc. that comes with publishing poetry and short fiction, is it really that big of a crime to try to get more work in front of more eyeballs? I don’t know. It’s certainly not a practice I would chose to engage in but a part of me does understand the inclination.

      1. “Shady people are going to be shady people.”

        right. what i thought when i read this post was something like, ‘haters gon’ hate, writers gon’ write, fools gon’ fool.’

  4. Hey Roxane with one -n.

    The issues of time, getting riled up and the idea of ‘getting in front of more eyeballs,’ at least for me, are red herrings. Of course many writers want an audience. And who has the time to do anything? And getting riled up is relative, I guess–writing another editor to tell them about a double-publish is hardly keying somebody’s car or writing a blog post perp walk.

    My point, and I think it was the point of the 32 Poems post-writer, was that if and when an editor is made aware of this happening, most editors would react in the negative, think it’s at least lame and unprofessional, and at most make a point not to publish this person again.

    I don’t know of any literary journals that reprint work that was in another literary journal as a regular practice. An old writer friend, Jim Coppoc, actually started a lit journal a couple years ago, called “Second Chance” or something, with the expressed purpose of re-publishing, giving credit to the first go-around place, with the idea of getting that work out to a larger audience. That’s a cool idea. Other than that, it’s a lame or maybe embarrassed writer who has let their work double-publish.

    Will this kind of practice really ‘catch up’ a writer without people’s behavior being corrected by editors and other writers, or the behavior being pointed out and discussed as being wrong-headed and unprofessional? I don’t know. I don’t believe in karma or anything.

    Thanks for linking to the post.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      There are actually quite a few magazines that publish reprints. We consider previously published work at PANK because we have no guidelines though admittedly, it is very very rare that we publish previously published work simply because often times, people submit work that has appeared in parallel markets . While the practice is definitely more common in journalism, it does happen for creative writing as well. I absolutely agree that when it is done without permission and acknowledgment, it is very unprofessional.

      1. I can’t think of any lit journals that do reprints. Are thinking of like Utne Reader and Harper’s?

      2. Well, as I said, PANK. I know Red Fez does as does amphibi.us, Frigg, Ginosko, The Front Porch Review, The Fine Line, The Reprint, Fiction Circus, The Legendary, Milk Money, NOO Journal, Quay, Revisitations, and those are just the ones I’m familiar with off the top of my head. Now, these aren’t necessarily top tier magazines but this is not an uncommon thing. Some of these magazines have caveats on the previously published work they will consider but they still look at it. I’d guess there are hundreds of magazines that accept reprints. Most of the money I ever make off my fiction is through reprints to secondary markets and anthologies.

  5. Right, anthologies and such, that’s for reprints. Gotcha. I guess reprinting is more of a thing for the lower-tier of journals–I didn’t know Pank did reprints/repubs, but I wouldn’t call them/you guys low-tier. And did not know that about NOO journal. The only one I could think of was DMQ Review after I posted my comment.

    Time for me to resubmit my work, I guess!

    1. A lot of this also stems from people not knowing how to act. Common sense and acting like someone who gives a fuck about the way they are perceived [e.g., possibly as a “professional”] seems to fall by the wayside for so many people. All it takes is a simple and courteous email to an editor to find out if there is a reprint policy.

      1. Or, as you write, “Hindsight is a motherfucking wrecking ball.” Stop being the voice of reason, Sean.

  6. Sean, I may not know you but I agree with you.
    To double print or reprint without permissions is dick.
    Know the rules is all.
    Those who are discovered perpetrating this devious and lame offense should be outed.
    Online erasure; in-print retraction.
    Also a good reason to perfect one’s Shakespearean insults.
    Blacklist the bastards and bastardettes.
    Etc, minus tarring and feathering.

  7. I’m late to the party, but I promise I’ll stay and help clean up….

    How about this conundrum: what shall we do (as writers) when a lit mag closes up shop and takes its toys and goes home? I know this has been discussed before, and the consensus seems to be that a writer in this sort of bind cannot resubmit the story, but hell. Hell, hell, hell: a perfectly good story gets its lips zippered shut with the click of a button. It dies.

    What are some of your thoughts on this kind of double-submit, which is not really a double-submit, but kind of is? Or isn’t. Maybe. I am still on the fence about this one.

    The thing is that the rules need to be respectful going both ways. I’m irked that I was asked for stories for a new lit mag, who pubbed them, then promptly went offline the following month without notice. Yes, this is part of the deal, part of the danger, but it’s frustrating. I followed their submission rules, but what was in place to protect the writers?

    By the way: Hello, Daniel. Nice to meet you.

    1. Katrina —

      Good question. I’ve thought about writing this specifically for some time now.

      I suppose you’re talking about online journals, where if they go kaput they are no longer online in archives? Or are you talking about print journals, too?

      I think there shouldn’t necessarily a difference, but I can tell you that what I feel as a writer and former editor. That scenario of a very short-lived online journal is irksome, as you say. And it’s happened to me. But there have been lots of print journals that have lasted one, two issues, then went out of business, off the face of the earth-style. In many ways, I don’t see the difference.

      Those online journals would be accessible through the Wayback machine or Archives.org. They’re out there somewhere. What I have done is post writing on my own personal site, and credit where they were initially published. I don’t re-send them out to be republished.

      As an editor, when Unpleasant Event Schedule went out of business, and I decided not to spend money on hosting anymore, I just took it all down. I ran it for four-some years, and then it went away. I don’t see what sin is being committed there. I wrote to everyone who was published, or as many as I could find, to say it would be no more, then I took it down.

      You can still read the journal through the Waybackmachine site; here are five poems from Leonard Gontarek:



      1. I’m glad to know that there is a real Wayback machine. That takes care of that.

        You did a classy thing when you contacted the contributors after decided to take down Unpleasant Event Schedule. This shows that you truly respect the writers, so, heavens no: no crime committed at all.

        Thanks for weighing in.

        As I promised, I’ll start picking up the beer bottles and vacuuming now…

      2. now you can also just like fairly easily move to like a free wordpress account for example too. my friend vaughan did that when he wanted to discontinue writers’ bloc, which is cool because all our stuff is still up there.

  8. “What some people do is let a work be published, never tell any of the editors, or forget, or not care, and let the same work be published somewhere else, never telling anyone.”

    I’m late to the thread, but just wanted to add from personal experience: there are some EDITORS out there who won’t even tell you that they have accepted your work (or if you sent a batch of poems, what part of that batch they accepted or whether it was all of it?).

    It’s happened to me twice in the past few years that I’ve received a contributor copy with work in it that I didn’t know had been accepted by that editor. In the first I instance, I flat out didn’t get any acceptance notification, and I’m assuming they just saved the return address on my submission envelop to know where to send the issue. In the second instance, the editor accepted two poems out of four that I’d sent, but I guess assumed the other two poems were part of the two he’d accepted? despite the fact that each had separate titles, as indicated in the body of work and in my cover letter? I dunno?

    Both times, I had a tiny panic attack and couldn’t wait to figure out if that work was out with another editor. I didn’t want any rights issues to come up. (I mean, I’m not a freakin’ lawyer! I’m a schmoe-poet just trying to put my work in front of a few readers!)

    These were both kickass, respectable journals. But both times I felt like I was on that show “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant [until I was on the toilet having a baby!].” So Weird!

  9. PS– my response was less a rant against editors and more a statement that “accidents” and misunderstandings happen, especially with hundreds-to-thousands of submissions are involved. I don’t know any writers who knowingly “simulcast” their work. That’s a really d-bag thing to do, actually. Gross.

    1. Hey Brooklyn — Oh I didn’t take it as a rant. And that’s happened to me as a writer as well. Variations on it as well–you know, the getting published but you still have to buy and issue scenario, which is, IMHO, lame. Do editors do this knowingly? I’m not sure. It’s hard to tell maybe? I do know writers who knowingly double-publish work. Maybe because I edited journals?

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