Well, dear reader, the 16-week window for a publisher’s decision on Names and Secrets has come and gone. And… NO DECISION has been made. I have written previously about what this could mean, but I have said little about what to do (and what I’m doing) in this situation.
Three options (and one ‘sort of’ option) come to mind:
- Keep waiting to hear something. AKA do nothing (Probably not the best option)
- Retract the submission and look elsewhere. (Possibly correct, but this solution could cost you)
- Just give up. (Basically, the same as the keep waiting or retract the submission options, but you also get to feel like a failure (I ain’t doing that…))
- Gently, patiently, and carefully communicate with the publisher and find out what’s going on. (We may have a winner here!)
Each option has its good and bad points…
If we choose to keep waiting, we might avoid offending anyone. But we aren’t doing ourselves any favors. We might not be pressuring the publisher, but we might convince them we don’t care about our work (which might tip the scales in a NOish direction…). Or, the submission may have simply fallen through the cracks and been missed. In this case, we’re just wasting our time while nothing happens. Unless you are so emotionally strung out that you can’t write a decent email (or are too busy to write one) this might not be the best option. (And if your time and emotions are keeping you from writing the email, this might be the time to stop and regroup…)
Retracting the submission might be the best option. We might find success elsewhere. But we risk cutting off a positive decision without knowing it. In Think and Grow Rich Napoleon Hill tells the story of a man who invested heavily then gave up three feet before hitting gold. The man who bought his equipment got rich. The man himself went broke. Quitting might have been a good idea in other circumstances. But this guy gave up three feet from the goal. We don’t want to do that, do we? We might need to look elsewhere, but let’s get more information first.
Getting more information means asking questions. Now, I don’t mean we should start bugging editors five seconds (or even five minutes) after we make our submission. (Trust me, pissing off the editor ain’t the way to get a book published) Publishers that I work with have a time window in which they predict they will respond. Give them a chance to fulfil that promise (Most of them ain’t shy about saying no and want to get things rolling if the answer is yes). But if that window has come to the end, asking questions is fair ball.
How do we ask those questions? First off, figure out the publisher’s system for communication. They might prefer a message in the submission system, or an e-mail to the editor may be the best bet. Then write up a message with your question or questions that is fair and professional. You don’t need to be timid or defensive (the publisher said they’d respond in a given window and haven’t asking questions is fair ball). On the other hand, there is no reason to be offensive or accusatory. Be careful about your assumptions (trying to call out a black editor as being a white supremacist ain’t a great idea and calling a single parent whose child has cancer lazy probably isn’t too smart either…). Write a communication with a calm, patient tone; information to help identify which submission you’re talking about; and good questions that help the publisher give you genuine answers (“I would like to inquire about my submission title here, submitted on X date” is going to get you a lot farther than “Hey butt-head what happened to my manuscript?”)
Asking questions won’t guarantee acceptance, but it helps you find out what you need to know (and might help get a stalled process back on track). Sometimes how you deal with a situation is as important as the fact that you dealt with it. And not dealing with it doesn’t get you anywhere at all…
Well, dear reader, I should get back to editing (and checking my e-mail every five minutes to see if the publisher’s responded yet). Good luck with your own projects. And I’ll see you next post.