I received a phone call mid-July from an editor who wants to buy one of my PB stories. We are now mid-October and the contract hasn't come through yet. I've sent her a couple gentle e-nudges and her reply has basically been: "Your contract is the next one on my list." She seems excited about this project but I'm left wondering what the delay is about. Being a larger publisher, could it be she's just swamped with work and I need to keep being patient? Is this three-month interim a warning signal that all is not well with the fate of my next PB? Or might they still be hammering out details like who the illustrator will be (as I suggested someone who was different than their initial plan)? What should my next step be?It's always possible that she's swamped with work-- more than that, the only editors these days who are not swamped are the ones who are out of work. However, this is not absolutely an excuse.
I attempt to get my contracts requested within the same week of finalizing a deal, because otherwise I will completely forget to do so. But there are a lot of different workstyles in the industry, so who knows? Maybe it's right there on her to-do list and not in danger of being forgotten.
However. Three months is about as long as I would wait for an editor to start work on a contract, because once it goes to the legal department, it can take another month or three to arrive on your doorstep in signable form. It is unreasonable to expect authors to wait that long for their on-signing payment. Six months with no money? Meanwhile the editor is drawing a monthly paycheck.
You should be in touch with her and say in the most positive tones how much you appreciate her enthusiasm for the project, and how much you have been looking forward to working with her, but that if she truly hasn't the time to offer this project or the house itself hasn't enough enthusiasm, then you really feel you should find the manuscript another home. Always, always project the impression that you can sell something elsewhere. Even if you're sure you can't. If you let an editor know that her house is the last chance for your manuscript, you're inviting the editor to wonder if she's made a mistake and really no one is going to want this book.