When you know it's going to be a no, how soon do you tell the poor bastards? It seems to me "Yes" comes fast and "no" takes forever. As they say in Tinsel Town, if you haven't heard, you've heard.
Ok, well. A confession about editors. We hide our heads in the sand.
Can you blame us? Would you want to pick up a phone and call someone and tell him or her (or even his or her agent) that you didn't like the project in question?
No. No one likes giving bad news (or geez, no one I ever want to work with) so most of us avoid it.
I pass on a project when the agent calls or emails me to follow up. That way, it's not a cold call.
However, I have to say this--in a lot of cases, the first time your agent calls to follow up I won't even have reviewed the project yet. I get tons of projects, and unfortunately a lot of them are from agents who practice the sticks-to-the-wall method (you know, throw it ALL at the wall and hope something sticks). These agents will frequently send really worthless projects or projects that don't match my tastes or my company's list (and lots of them) and then never follow up. (I can't even tell you how many agents never follow up--I have no idea why. I just. don't. get it.)
Sure, there are those crazy stories about "I read it in one night and I knew I had to have it!" and "I was desperate to outbid the other houses--I made my entire department take it home and called an emergency editorial meeting the next day!"
But you know why those editors read it overnight?... Because an agent followed up. Yeah. Seriously. That overnight read was most likely a product of an agent's calling the editor and saying, "Just to let you know, I've been getting tons of interest on Project X and I'm expecting an offer to come in on Thursday." Or something along those lines. Another good honest tactic is calling and asking around for feedback--then the agent can pretty legitimately say that they've had good feedback from other editors, as long as one editor said something positive. But anyway, it's all about the agent.
So, the moral of this story (how did we get here? Oh, I guess I always get here): get a pro-active agent who makes calls. Otherwise, you'll never hear anything at all.