Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wait for It ...

As reported last week, my latest foray into smut, Jessalina’s Pets, has been accepted by Siren. It went out to them on a Thursday evening; I got the acceptance the following Tuesday. That’s one of the many things I like about Siren: they’re speedy. I’ve heard about similar quick response times from other online romance publishers. The eagerly-awaited yes (or the dreaded no) can show up in your mailbox anywhere from six months to literally overnight.

Other publishers, print publishers, magazines … eh.

Waiting for a publisher’s response, whether it’s yea or nay, sucks. It’s never fun to send your baby out into the world and then have to wait to find how it’s been received. Sure, you can work on something else—in fact, that’s recommended—but part of your brain will always be wondering, “Yeah, but what about that one I sent out X weeks (or months) ago? When am I gonna hear back?”

Yeah. About that “when.”

Publishers are busy people. So are writers. We sit home and churn out the pages and inundate the publishers. Somebody has to wade through all those subs. Then somebody else has to recommend the manuscript to others up the ladder. Then somebody makes a decision. Then somebody notifies you. All this decision-making takes time. Like weeks sometimes. If you didn’t sub through an agent, your masterpiece gets shoved to the end of the line with the other 1000 pieces of slush the publisher got that week. Meanwhile, the editor, selfish bastard that he/she is, decides to have a semblance of a personal life or take a vacation or has a heart attack. Tack a few more weeks onto your response time. It’s not uncommon for writers to wait literally years for the good word. Or a rejection. Or anything.

To make matters worse, most publishers insist on exclusivity. “No simultaneous submissions.” One publisher at a time. That means your book can languish on a desk or in a slush pile for months, when it could be out making the rounds to other editors who might actually want it. Remember, you don’t get paid until the editor says yes. It can’t get to Editor #2 until Editor #1 says no. This is why you need to write other stuff while your magnum opus makes the rounds. Get enough polished and out there, and you can get a nice little sub circle going among your target publishers. Somebody somewhere in there is bound to say yes eventually.

Or maybe not. I’ve seen publisher guidelines that announce, “We only respond if we want it,” but don’t give a time frame. How long are you supposed to wait before you send it elsewhere? Six weeks? Six months? A couple years? I queried a publisher in 2006. Never got a response. Is it safe for me to send it out again?

Meanwhile, the bills keep coming in with depressing regularity. We don’t get to reject those, or delay prompt response. I suspect editors, publishers and even slush readers get regular checks, on time. Still want to be a writer?

Here’s a few of my (least) favorite waiting stories. Every writer has these. Whole stacks of them, more’s the pity.

I once sent a story to a fantasy magazine. They held it for a year and a half before they said no. I sent it to another mag which told me the same thing within two weeks (I like them). Tried somewhere else. After not hearing back for several months I finally withdrew it and sent it to another mag. This outfit held it for close to two years and then went belly-up. I learned of the mag’s demise on a market site a couple weeks after I'd nudged them and been told they were about to get to it. The story now sits in my closet, unsold.

One of the primary gaming companies decided to start a new fiction line (in addition to their game-related books) and announced an open call. “Anything that can be shelved in SF or fantasy,” said the editor. Well, I had one of those, which I figured would fit their primary demographic of late teen/young adult males. So I sent it in. And waited. A year passed. The book line started a second open call with the first still unresolved. Now they had two sets of anxious writers biting their nails. Somewhere around the year and a half point the original editor either quit or got sacked and a new ed was brought in. She announced they were looking for a more adult slant with only minimal SF/fantasy content. In short, they were targeting the Stephen King/Dean Koontz audience. That’s not who my book was aimed at. I got my rejection soon after. The line lasted roughly two years and then folded. Yeah well.

I sent this same book to the recent (2012) Harper Voyager open call. HV promised a three-month submission window, with decisions to be made in January 2013. They got over 4500 entries. They recently (yes, in June 2014) announced their final selections. I got my rejection back in October, roughly a year after entering. Others I’ve been following on a writers’ site never even received a rejection. The book’s now at the Angry Robot open call. So far that wait is six months and counting. I sent it in at the last minute, so I figure I’ve still got a couple months to go.

Oh yeah, this is also the book I sent to Amazon’s 47 North line. They’re one of those outfits that only responds if they’re interested. It’s been three years and they haven’t responded. I think I’m safe in sending it elsewhere at this point.

Finally, a true story that, thankfully, didn’t happen to me. Another writer sent a book to a major SF publisher. They ended up withdrawing it—ten years later. The publisher kept saying, “We haven’t made a decision yet. It’s still under consideration.” That’s ten years it sat exclusively on somebody’s desk when it might have sold somewhere else. It never even got an official rejection. That writer has a hell of a lot more patience than I do. I think they finally self-published.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Self-publish! No waiting! Just hit Send and there y’go. Publishers, better pay attention, or you might find yourself waiting for product to publish. I’ll try not to feel too sorry for you.


Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, exactly why self-publishing is becoming the ticket for so many authors. And really, if you have a trend-sensitive story, why not? By the time a publisher says yay or nay, or even if they do, the trend could have come and gone.

Pat C. said...

I just learned that Angry Robot's YA and mystery imprints have abruptly folded. AR itself (where my book is currently under consideration) appears to be financially solvent. On the other hand, someone else reported the company that owns AR is attempting to sell itself on the open market, which does not bode well. Stay tuned.

Savanna Kougar said...

Wow... who can you trust these days?