Monday, May 3, 2010

The Black Hole Has "Requested" Your Manuscript

I've had a middle-grade manuscript sitting (or standing, or whatever manuscripts do while they wait) at a small regional publisher for going on nine months now. It was requested last summer just a few days after I queried, and I received an enthusiastic confirmation e-mail a couple of days later. After six months of silence, I sent a brief follow-up to check on the status and got no reply. I've since seen on the Web site that the person to whom I was asked to direct the manuscript is no longer with the publisher. I would assume that when the intern/associate/whatever who was originally assigned the manuscript departs, the manuscript remains viable until I'm notified otherwise. Is it OK to e-mail the managing editor, who originally requested the full manuscript, again? How might I word the e-mail to engender an actual response? I don't want to be a stalker, but this isn't a slush pile situation. They asked for my book.
You're not being a stalker. They ought to respond.

However, one of the staff leaving often means his/her to-read pile is utterly orphaned. (Possibly even orphaned into the recycling bin.) Anyone helping to shoulder the work that staff member left behind is going to have more than enough to do with the already-signed-up manuscripts.

I would suggest you do email the managing editor, but there are no magic words to make this a priority or ensure a response. Meantime, you should be submitting elsewhere. 9 months is ridiculous.


Anonymous said...

Oh man, do I feel for the questioner. The same thing happened to me, only in my case it was three years. And I never did hear from the editor. I only count it as three years because that's how long it took to sell the manuscript elsewhere.

As for the editor, she not only moved to another house but became someone Quite Noted in the publishing world.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh when EA says nine months is ridiculous. It may be ridiculous where EA works, but it isn't at all unusual for certain houses, big or small. I've had agented mss with editors of large houses for six months without reply. Eleven months in one case. More than three never responded at all, for work they said they WANTED to look at.

I'm sorry for this person, though. It is so frustrating to get that far, get that request, and then not be respected enough to be informed of what is going on. The trouble with "subbing to others" is that most "others" want only agented subs, and so there may not be that many "others" to sub. I'm crossing my fingers for the OP -- to get an editor that both respects their work and their time.

Martina Boone said...

Wow, this has to be a terribly frustrating and disappointing experience. Thanks for sharing how to handle this sticky situation and best of luck to whoever you are, as the writer stuck in the black hole. I hope it works out soon!

Sarah Stevenson said...

How frustrating! But it's also encouraging to know that there are times when it IS acceptable to send a courteous follow-up. As the person sending the query, it's easy to feel like you're at a disadvantage (not to mention, in an information vacuum) when you're anxious not to seem like a pest or a stalker but you still want to know what's happened to your manuscript.

I've luckily never been in this situation. Whenever my full ms. has been requested, I've been rejected mercifully quickly (with one notable exception, forthcoming in January). :)

TK Roxborogh said...

Here in NZ, I have had my last five books contracted on a synopsis and a couple of chapters.

In the US, my agent has now been trying to find a home for my epic trilogy since May last year!

He hasn't given up. I'm trying not to take it personally. Perhpas if the book wins in its nominated category, it might make some waves.....

We writers have to be very determined!

Anonymous said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto. I've sold manuscripts after they've been sitting at a publishing house for over a year. And I've also had it happen that I never heard from the editor again (yes, an editor who had requested the manuscript). Once, an editor got back to me with an offer three years later. I was happy to be able to tell her that the manuscript had sold to a bigger (and better) house and was about to be published.

Christine Tripp said...

I'm shocked that anyone in business would have no contact with the very person who creates the product the company sells for 6 months, let alone not reply to an email after that long period of time. If an Editor or Publisher knows they are too busy to even email an author they have requested a manuscript from, then why request in the first place? I realize it's hard to say no to something they might love and want to publish but it is just very wrong to put another persons career and life on hold for almost a year (or more as some have said) without a word. At the very least they should warn the requested author about a potential years delay before they can respond.

Anonymous said...

Well, to be fair--some publishers get 1000 manuscripts per month. Editors come and go, get promoted, have babies. Budgets get cut and new management comes in. Manuscripts get misplaced and found again. It's been this way since I've been in the business (decades). I'm pleasantly surprised when I DO hear back, even if it's just a scrawled note on a form.

Christine Tripp said...

You know, I hear how busy people are all the time and guess what, we all are:)
Talk to anyone and THEIR job is always much harder then yours (as they tell it)
Publishers may get 1000 submissions a month but I certainly hope they do not request that many monthly. I do think, in this age of instant, easy and free correspondence, a one line email is not asking too much after 9 months.
I just don't think there is really any excuse for this.

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