Monday, June 29, 2009

A Route I Didn't Expect

Rejections are, of course, part of writing, and I’ve collected a buttload. They don’t bother me much anymore, and I’ve learned a lot from them. What I really hate are the folks who don’t bother to reply at all. It’s not as bad as the old days when you always inquired via snail mail, but still insulting nonetheless.

Of course, they didn’t ask you to send a query. On the other hand, reviewing queries is their job, and shooting back a simple "sorry, not interested" is not a lot to ask. That’s like being in line at the check-out counter with a cartload of groceries and the clerk chooses to help the person behind me.

What I hate even more is when someone requests your manuscript, then you never hear from them. You don’t know if they’ve passed on your work, haven’t gotten around to it yet, or didn’t receive it at all. And how long do you wait before inquiring about it? You don’t want to sound pushy - or worse, desperate - especially since they’ve probably got a pile of other manuscripts they’ve requested. Some agents and publishers let you know how long they’re reply will take, but most don’t.

Not knowing sucks. It’s worse than a form rejection. But, as I later found out, it doesn’t always mean you’ve been rejected. One of the publishers who never responded turned out to be the one who offered me a contract.

I queried Quake, an imprint of Echelon Press in April of 2008. A month later, I got a reply from an acquisitions editor requesting the full manuscript. Obviously excited, I sent it right away.

Four months later, I inquired about its status. No reply. And again a month later that. No reply. All told, I inquired this editor six times and never heard a peep. In fact, a year passed since I sent the thing. I wrote an entire new novel in the meantime, and when it came time to submit it to potential publishers, I wrote Quake/Echelon off my list.

I spend a lot of time on To me, it’s the best forum for info and advice for any writer, and the greatest tool since Writer’s Digest. Anyway, there’s a link where people can inquire about, or offer experience with, various publishers and agents. Whenever anyone inquired about Echelon, I offered my own experience...that they requested my manuscript and never bothered to respond again, despite my numerous inquiries. Basically, I called it like I saw it.

A few months later I got an email forwarded through AbsoluteWrite regarding Echelon. It simply stated (verbatim): "wants to publish your book."


I had some preconceived ideas about that fateful day when (or if) I placed my work with a publisher, but didn’t think it would be like this. I quickly went to AbsoluteWrite, where a lot of folks on the forum knew about Echelon’s interest in my book before I did. Apparently, Echelon had been looking for me for four months. The editor who first requested the manuscript had since quit, been rehired, then quit again, during which time my book was passed from editor to editor, and they didn’t have my contact info. They also got a good look at all the negative things I wrote about them on the forum.

Echelon’s CEO used the forum to shoot few good-natured jibes back at me. And being fairly new to all this, part of it is my fault...I never included my contact info on the manuscript itself. I just assumed my email would be kept. I guess it’s fortunate she has a good sense of humor, because I was offered a contract anyway. We talked on the phone and shared some laughs about the whole thing. I walked away feeling good about Echelon, small but author-friendly, and signed the contract.

After withdrawing the book from consideration by other publishers and agents, I revisited my submission records of the second novel I’m attempting to sell...plenty of rejections, some requests for partial manuscripts, and a lot who haven’t replied in several months. But I won’t write them off this time, no matter how long they take, because you never know...


  1. Not knowing is the worst part, I agree. I've been known in the past, and will undoubtedly be in the future, to figuratively cut off my nose to spite my face, simply to get the indecision over with.
    The people at Absolute Write are the best. I've spent months trying to synopsize my latest MS and they're always there to help me out with feedback.
    Can't wait to see your book.

  2. You make a number of valid points. I too would much rather get a terse email saying "No Thanks," instead of vast unknowable silence.

    Including contact info on the ms. whether you are sending paper or an e-ms. makes worlds of sense.