Monday, November 15, 2010

The Wait

Hello Rejecter,

On average how long does it take for a publishing house to determine a book is to be published or rejected? I have one out to a publisher over a year and no response. I sent a follow up with an additional submission two months ago and still haven’t heard back. Any idea of an average time frame allotted?

Let me give a more complete answer than just answering your question about publishers.

(1) Unsolicited manuscript to publisher - This is a long wait. Sometimes a year or more at the worst places. Publishers will post times on their website and then not keep to them, and may not respond at all. Check with the publisher - you can even call and ask how long the response time is, but don't bother them by pitching your novel on the phone.

(2) Unsolicited query to agent - If you're going to hear back at all, the time is 1-2 weeks, maybe 3 if it's by mail. Sometime it can be instantaneous with an e-query, if the agent's assistant is just sitting in front of the computer when it comes in. I only am in the office about once a week (thanks, economy!) so most of the queries get done whatever day I'm in, so some people get instant replies and some people have to wait a few days for e-queries.

(3) Unsolicited manuscript to an agent - Don't do this.

(4) Agent sends the manuscript to a publisher - One to two months. A good agent will pitch the book to a bunch of editors they know, see who's interested, then send the book in and give a "closing date." Then, knowing the industry, they'll bug the editor politely a bunch of times until the closing date, then continuing bugging and the replies will float in over the next few weeks. You're not involved in this part of the process, though a good agent will keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

Excellent information!!!

error7zero said...

You're only in the office once a week? Do you work at home -- or, ahem -- work less?
If the latter, hope this proves temporary.

M Clement Hall said...

Useful answer because it tells unvarnished truth. But is there any other industry that doesn't bother to answer their enquiries?

Anonymous said...

I have had a requested manuscript at a major publisher since June, 2002.

During that time it has been purchased by another major publisher, come out in hardcover to good reviews, and then in paperback, and sold fair-to-middlin well.

The unresponding editor who requested it, who did not respond to any of my polite prods, left that company in 2005.

I don't know if it's still sitting there, in a huge pile of unread manuscripts, or has been recycled into Marcel bath tissue, but I rather hope it's the latter.

The Rejecter said...

Is the publisher Tor? Because you could have a manuscript there for YEARS.

Anonymous said...

I hope your timeline on agented manuscripts to publishers is accurate and in my [near] future. My novel has been in the hands of many top publishers for six weeks, with only three responses so far. I'm dyin' here! The three rejections were glowing, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we are going to find a home for the book SOON.

Anonymous said...

You answered the question I was going to post on your site! My agent says she's ready to send my ms out. I have the nagging worry that sending something out so near the holidays is a bad idea. Do you have any opinion on that? I haven't broached it because I don't want to insult my agent's expertise.

Eileen said...

Anon- you should feel comfortable asking your agent about the submission plan. Your agent is your business partner. If you are afraid to ask them things about your career this is a problem.

In my experience, publishing gets slow around Christmas and in August. But this doesn't mean houses aren't still acquiring. Your agent may know what editors are around and looking to do some reading during this slow time etc.

Trisha said...

Good to know - thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

How about this scenario? Unagented writer meets editor at conference. Editor asks for full. Three months later, editor emails writer and tells her she "really enjoyed ms" and has passed it to another editor for second read. Five months later, writer hasn't heard anything from either editor.

Is this a rejection or is there still hope?

Mahak Jain said...

That sounds about right -- as an editor, I estimate about 6 months to respond to unsolicited manuscripts. I try not to go over that, though it happens during a particularly busy season.

Lisa R said...

I've had my full ms out to Tor/Forge and HarperCollins since October 2010 (my agent pitched it and editors requested the full). Since it's been about 6 months should I assume that's a no? Random House, Hachette and St. Martin's all said no within 1-2 months. Mira has it now as well.