Friday, May 4, 2007

Be Patient. Be Professional. And Submit the Hell Out of Your Ms.

Everyone has the same question: how long to wait?
READER 1: "I met a senior editor at a conference in Feb 06 who invited me to submit a manuscript for consideration. I submitted a story. Six months after I submitted the ms to this editor, I received an email from her asking if it was still in need of a home She also said that she loved the quirky humor of the story and would get some notes to me soon. I responded that yes, certainly she could consider it! A few more months passed and I checked in with her to see if she was still interested in the ms because I had not heard back from her. She responded right away, that yes, she was still very much interested and sorry to be taking so long, and could I please hold on a little longer (that was in November 06). I waited until the end of Jan 07 to check in again and never heard back, and checked in another time at the end of April 07 and still haven’t heard. I’m curious as to why she wouldn’t get back to me to say she either still wants it or doesn’t. Do you think she is not interested anymore? I guess it might be obvious to some that she doesn’t, but her two emails to me indicated that she was really very interested. Should I just forget about it? Should I try calling her or would that be totally annoying?"
I kind of hate phone calls. For one thing, editors are maniacally multi-tasking: paperwork, emails, people coming to our desks, etc... so suddenly finding yourself stuck on the phone puts a wrench in the crazy juggling act. Also, I may have some meaningful thoughts about your manuscript, but if you're suddenly on the other end of the phone, I don't have enough time to cast my mind back to the last time I was looking at the thing. You're going to get very little that's useful out of me. Email.
To answer your two previous questions, editors don't express enthusiasm lightly. It could be that she can't quite think how to present the project to her acquisitions board, and it still may not work out at her house. But I would believe her when she says she's interested.
Try emailing her and asking if perhaps she's having trouble positioning the ms, and would a rewrite be of any help? And in the meantime, keep submitting that thing elsewhere.

READER 2: "If two years is long but not out of the question, what's typical? I realize it depends on the book and the publisher, but am curious if the illustrator usually signs on within a certain time frame. Also, does having an agent help prod the process along?"
I've seen an obscene amount of time pass before some projects get moving. And I've seen some with no particular time-sensitivity hit the ground running and zip out the door. There is no "typical." It's not one project vs another, one publisher vs another, one editor vs another.

Agents can help with the prodding, but you can do that job yourself if you're patient, professional, and aren't going to go crazy just thinking about the amount of time that's passed. A good rule of thumb is to prod in 3-month increments.
READER 3: "My novel has been under consideration for 4+ months. I had an inside contact, and after reading my query the executive editor requested the first large chunk. I sent her ten chapters, which she read, and requested the rest of my YA novel. She said she'd try and let me know in "three-weeks." I know, pretty optimistic. So...that was 4 months ago. Shortly after the three-month mark, I sent her a short note, saying I hoped things were still moving in a positive direction and that I wanted to keep an exclusive submission with her. She didn't reply to that email. I certainly DO NOT want to be annoying, so I've done nothing since. But other editors have shown interest in my novel, so I don't want to lose opportunities. I'm currently unagented. Any advice on how to proceed? Just keep waiting?"
Yes. But while you're waiting, let that editor know that you're submitting the manuscript to other editors, and get that baby out there! Exclusives, my ass. If there's a chance you can get two editors competing for your manuscript, fantastic.


CJ Omololu said...

IMHO, if you have editorial interest, I would work on getting an agent. The time you most WANT an agent is when you have two editors interested in your work.

Stephanie J. Blake said...

Thanks for this new blog. It is very informative.

I've had 5 editors, at different mid-size houses, looking at a full of my MG manuscript (2 for some 7-8 months now). Status Queries to 2 of these editors have gone unanswered.

What to do???

While I wait, I've completed a new MG book and have started submitting it.

And have started a 3rd and 4th--both YA.

I have approached very FEW agents...but none have made an offer to represent. The material is aimed at middle grade boys (9-14).


Editorial Anonymous said...

What did I just say? Prod every three months (past the time they say they'll get back to you). Keep submitting, and stay busy.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is wonderful. It's an inside track to sanity for those on the 'other' side of publishing.

I'm hooked.

Sean McManus said...

I know it takes time to read books, but I can't help thinking that many editors are stalling. They've got more books than they could ever hope to develop, and they won't part with good books they don't have time for. If it's taking months for them to say 'we like your book, we'll take it seriously', I would think it's highly unlikely to happen. It's different if they say 'good stuff, a few rewrites needed, here's a contract' and it takes months to reach the shelves - that I understand. But taking months to just say 'yes' strongly suggests to me that they are unlikely to have time to do anything. As you say, the more copies of the MS in circulation, the greater chance of it hitting an editor at a time when (s)he has time to do something with it.

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