Saturday, March 27, 2010

It's an Auction! Or Not.

You have said never to call an editor to check on the status of your query or manuscript submission. Other editors and editorial assistants have said the same thing. Just. Don't. Call. I understand this.

But what does the aspiring author do when a manuscript on multiple submission garners an offer from one publishing house? Presumably they will want to hear back within a reasonably short time frame, and yet, mailing status checks and "Just so you know, I've had an offer/serious interest from another house looking at this manuscript that I sent you a while back," letters and waiting for a response on those can take a WHILE. (Especially if you're mailing things from Canada to the US, as I am. Snail mail is not far off.)

How does one go about this without making an interested publisher wait too long, angering the other editors who might be considering her work, and calling anybody?
The question is whether you've submitted to a slush pile or not. (For clarity, I am not talking about whether you put an editor's name on the submission-- most of those end up in the slush pile, regardless.)

If you submitted to the slush pile, don't bother informing other publishers. The chances that they know where your manuscript is, much less have read it yet, are fairly infinitesimal. (Sorry. This is one of the reasons people get an agent.) Just go with the offer you've got, if it's reasonable, or if it's not, say no.

If you have submitted to an editor (i.e., because of a relationship with the editor, or because you attended a conference at which she spoke and she offered to read submissions following the conference, or some other reason), then it would be acceptable and prudent to email that editor and let her know you have interest elsewhere.

Meanwhile, let the publisher making the offer know that you just need to check in with the other people who have the manuscript, and then you'll get back to them. If you don't hear back from the other publishers within a week, you should go ahead with the offer on the table. If any of the other publishers do want to enter bidding, they should be willing to get an offer on the table in a matter of days, not weeks.

3 comments:

Bethany Elizabeth said...

This is very helpful, thank you! I haven't started submitting yet (I'm currently in France and would like to wait until I return to the US) and I'm still so new at this that posts like this one are helpful. I don't want to make any rookie's mistakes, like calling over and over, or assuming they've read my manuscript. Thank you!

Ishta Mercurio said...

So if it's in the slush, it's as good as lost until someone gets to it and makes a decision. Discouraging, but good to know. Thanks for this informative post!

Anonymous said...

Ishta, it's worse than that. I had an editor come up to me at a conference, after I gave a talk, and *ask* to see my manuscript. Not only did she not respond to my asking for a status update a year later, and two years later. But three years later, when I wrote to tell her that I was withdrawing it because I'd sold it elsewhere, she didn't respond and the following year I heard she'd transferred to another publisher.