There is a wealth of information online about approaching publishers and the query process, all of which I've found invaluable. However, once your work is actually out there, under consideration, information seems to dry up. For instance:Three months ago, an Editor at a small but extremely successful publisher called me. She liked my sample chapters and asked me to send the full manuscript straight away.After scooping my jaw up off the floor, I did as she asked.So what happens next?Does the Editor make an effort to read it as soon as she can? Does it get lost in the shuffle? If she loves it, what's the next step?I know three months is NOTHING when waiting for feedback on a full, and that I'll probably be waiting for a while yet either way, but as I can't find much information on this stage of the process, I was wondering if you'd be kind enough to shed some light on what happens to a requested manuscript once it gets to a publisher.The envelope comes in and is pulled from the mail by someone (an assistant / an intern) who's never heard your name before. They just pull it because it says "requested material" on it. That person passes it to me. They may remove the manuscript from its envelope and trash the envelope.
I look at the envelope/manuscript askance because I forgot your name ten seconds after I wrote it on the letter requesting the full. But I open the envelope and look at the cover letter and realize I did request this. I may have a memory of why, too! Points for me.
But whether my reaction is "oh, good! I was looking forward to seeing this!" or "I can't remember why I wanted this, but it'll probably be clear when I look at it," the next step is the same: it goes in a pile of things I need to read. Because right now I'm clearing off my desk or chair or inbox, and once that's finished, I have huge amounts of the work I'm paid for to do.
(a digression) Many authors idealistically think that it's part of my job to read things, and that's true, in an abstract way. In practical terms, though, there's always a huge amount of work to do for the books that are already underway, so the part of my job that's reading is usually the part on the subway or the weekend or any of the other times I'm sure as hell not being paid for. Sometimes I fantasize about taking time out of my day to sit comfortably with my reading and a cup of coffee and give everything the time and consideration it deserves. And then I roll my eyes or snort or laugh a little hysterically (depending on my current emotional stability) and get back to answering emails.
Eventually, I notice that the pile is getting a tad out of hand. Depending on what else has been going on, this may be when it fills its basket or when it's almost two feet tall. Noticing may be aided by agents in that pile nagging me, or maybe not. And depending on the time of year, the growth from one inch to 24 inches may happen over the course of three months or just two weeks. Sometimes I look at it and whimper.
But this stage is where I differ from a lot of editors: I have a pile. One pile, with one place to be, so when it's out of hand I do notice, and when I want to know how long the pile's been waiting, I can look at the stuff on the bottom. What many editors have is many, many piles on their desks, all of which are of varied content, import, and antiquity. I don't really understand how anybody works that way, but the proof is right across the hall from me. Lots of people do.
Ok, let's assume your manuscript has beaten the chaos and the crushing workload of the office and is actually in an editor's hands and being read with some focus. I'll also be reading with some foreboding, because experience shows that most fulls don't live up to the potential I saw in the partial. And, damn, that feels like a waste of my time! It's frustrating.
But maybe, maybe I read each successive chapter with growing hope and disbelief and, my god, is it... pleasure? And I finish the whole thing and think, that was great! I then have to get somebody else to read it to be sure the pressure hasn't gotten to me and I'm out of my mind.
And then (assuming I'm not nuts), we start the acquisition process, which varies a great deal from publisher to publisher, and may take a week or a month further before you hear anything from me.
...So when you finally do hear from me and I make an offer, it feels to you like an asteroid has fallen from the sky. But to your manuscript, it's the end of a journey full of perils and close calls, suspicion and doubt. It's like a beloved dog that you thought was dead suddenly showing up in your front yard covered in tire tracks and limping a little, but wagging his tail, happy to see you again. And with a suitcase full of money in his mouth!
...And then comes the really hard part.