I recently received the following question from a reader:
Two different editors asked to see my manuscript in order to decide whether to send it out for review. Needless to say, I was quite pleased. My question is now — how long do I wait before getting antsy and asking for feedback? It’s been almost 2 months since I sent the manucript…. I don’t want to appear pushy or obnoxious to potential editors, but I am eager to know where it stands, and also I want to move on if they are not interested. Do you have any advice?
It’s a great question, and one I know people sometimes struggle with All The Time.
I say email both editors now. You have every right to know where things stand, and after nearly two months, these editors shouldn’t feel “pushed” by your inquiry.
I do mean email; don’t call just yet. An email serves as a gentle reminder, and can usually be answered quickly — much appreciated by your editor if she’s behind in her correspondence. Plus, an email can quickly be flagged for follow up or added to a computer-based calendar if somehow your project isn’t already there.
- Keep the tone of your email confident and amiable.
- Convey your enthusiasm for the possibility of working with this editor at this press while also keeping the ball rolling.
- You might offer the editor an “out”–not to give her infinite time to consider your project, but because doing so gives you a perfect reason to ask for a timeline.
- Finally, use the two interested presses to instill a little urgency to the situation.
I am following up on the manuscript you asked me to submit back in early October… Have you had a chance to look over it? As you can imagine, I’m excited about moving ahead with you on the project, and would be delighted to hear any suggestions you may have for polishing it before it goes out for review.
If you’re still in the midst of your internal review, I understand. But in that case, could you let me know when I should expect more feedback on the manuscript?
By the way, I also wanted to let you know that another press is looking at my manuscript internally. Of course, should they decide to send it out for peer review, I’ll be in touch to discuss the matter with you first.
There are several things worth calling attention to in this possible response.
- It’s okay to remind the editor that she asked you for the manuscript. Really.
- It’s beneficial to casually mention when you submitted the manuscript. Please don’t exaggerate (eight weeks does not equal “it’s been several months!”).
- Okay, you may not be delighted to hear that your editor thinks you need to polish prior to review, but saying this conveys that you’re open to suggestions — which is a valuable thing to convey if she is at all on the fence about the project now that she has it in her hands.
- You’re under the impression that they’re still doing an internal review. Use that language — “internal review” — to confirm that you’re both on the same page, and to make sure she didn’t send it out for peer review a month ago without notifying you. [As a general rule, internal review should take much less time than external peer review.]
- If you haven’t already mentioned the other press, feel free to do so. But be careful about how you do so. Make it sound like a courtesy announcement rather than an effort to instill a sense of competition.
- Don’t call out your desire to move on if they’re not interested… or at least, don’t do it yet. Right now, you want to preserve the feeling that you two are meant to publish this book together.
If several days pass without a response, resend your message with a new header saying “Hi, Just wanted to be sure you got my message of DATE, below, since I haven’t heard from you. Could you give me an update on where things stand sometime this week?”
If that doesn’t generate a fairly quick response (36-48 hours, please!), do call your editor. Try to retain the confidence and amiability of your original email in any conversation or voicemail — but this would be the time to say, “If this project isn’t right for you after all, I’d like to know so I can move on.”
Does anyone have further advice for this reader? And/or give a shout if my advice raised further questions!