Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Writer Question: An editor requested my manuscript at a conference. What should my expectations be?

Someone wrote in:
Dear Moonrat,

I have a conundrum. I was at a writers' conference and an editor from a house I really admire asked for my manuscript! Obviously I was thrilled. I sent along all my materials as soon as I got back to my house. More than a month has passed now, though, and I haven't heard a peep. What should I do? What's the protocol in a situation like this?



First, are you asking me if it's ok to follow up? Sure. A great rule for follow-up with an editor on requests is one month. Less than one month and you're psycho and annoying. But once you reach the 32nd day, you're totally in the clear.

Edited to add: Please note: this is apparently not an industry standard. Below is Janet Reid's comment that 90 days is the minimum wait time before it's appropriate to call. Perhaps this has to do with how long I expect to be allowed to consider proposals from agents; I can see why agents need much longer to consider, since they don't have any third party sifting through proposals for them. Other agent/editor friends, do you agree? 90 days?

As for the best way to follow up, email. Don't call. (Here's why if you're curious why using the phone is the worst idea in the world.)

But there's another issue at the heart of this story, and it's one that comes up for everyone who attends a conference and meets with an editor. There's no agent in the equation. This means you're in a very weak negotiating position. There's no one but lonely you to apply pressure on the editor, and there's no pressure on the editor except a random unrepresented author with no other competitive prospects. Since you haven't submitted widely, there is zero chance of an auction or competitive bidding scenario, and furthermore, if a contract is issued, you'll probably end up with a contract that's a lot less favorable to you than it would have been if you'd been in a stronger negotiating position at the beginning.

Here's my post, which you've already read and are certainly tired of, about why you should have an agent before you submit to a publishing company. Now a conference connection is a very special scenario--of course you should follow up on that contact! But keep trying to get an agent. In the worst case scenario, the editor passes, you're back and square one and might as well go about the rest of your journey in as strong and forward-thinking a manner as possible. In the (supposed) best-case scenario, the editor offers on the book, you still need an agent to help you negotiate the contract (and also to figure out whether you want to take the deal, or hold out for something that might be a better fit for you and your book).

Hope this helped.


Janet Reid said...

Most beloved Moonrat, 30 days is WAY too soon to follow up on a full manuscript anytime let alone after a conference.

90 days.

moonrat said...

thanks, janet. i'll amend.

Jill Edmondson said...

I think I'd wait 60 to 90 days. Being too pushy isn't good.

Give them time to read and consider the MS and to perhaps put out some feelers about publishing it.

A lot of people are involved in the process and in the decision of who/what gets published.

My editor was 100% into doing my book, but he still ahd to go through channels at his company.

There was about a month and a half between his individual 'yes" and the "yes' from the company.

Cheers, Jill

Lisa Katzenberger said...

Also remember, not that you aren't wonderful and special, but that at a conference, the editor (or agent) probably requested lots of manuscripts - not just yours. My take is there's a high uptick in an editor's or agent's "to read" manuscript pile following a conference. And some of these cats are going to conferences back to back to back!

How to get through the dreadful waiting game? Start writing something new!

assumecrashpositions said...

I'm with Janet. I recommend your blog to anyone who will listen but sometimes I sit here and gurgle when you talk about turnaround times. Your turnaround times frighten me. Maybe you're hyper efficient. Maybe it's because you have the benefit of a kick butt assistant. Or maybe I'm just impossibly slow. But when you talk turnaround times, I cringe.

Love you! Mean it!

moonrat said...

this is so interesting! glad you guys are kicking in.

yes, i'm serious about the 1 month thing--and i'm surprised to hear there are other standards, so i'm really glad it's coming up.

assumecrashpositions, my friend, what would you say is a reasonable turnaround time? seeing as you're also an editor?

Leona said...

Thanks for the info. I recently asked on the blog with a house that had mine. It was funny because I got an email shortly thereafter asking me to resubmit my original email because they had had a computer crash and apparently mine was one that was lost :D (It had come up on the blog as they were revamping their web site and submission guidlenes.) My question was how long to wait without being a nuisance. It had been three months so I figured I was safe to ask.

Their time is two months, though, just FYI.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I had a conference request in October of last year and still no response (I nudged six months in).

I've signed with an agent since then, and she's submitting the same piece. Much better way to go.

agentgame said...

I think in many cases the best advice is to check an agent's webpage (and/or blog) and see if they offer any guidance on how long it usually takes them to respond to full or partial manuscripts. Being nudged after 30 days if the guidelines say it takes 2 or 3 months to respond is a bad thing.

If there are no guidelines, then 90 days is a much safer answer than 30.

Voidwalker said...

It's amazing how touchy the industry is about following up. From what I gather, if one does not have patience, it is going to be a rough ride.

The Rejectionist said...

We are gonna get TOTALLY CRAZY and say it pretty much never bothers us when authors check in after we/our boss have requested fulls, unless the author is clearly deranged, which really isn't that often. Even if IT'S ONLY BEEN THREE WEEKS. But then, our boss does have a kick-ass assistant. Hee hee.

Rebecca Knight said...

This is great to have agents, editors, and The Rejectionist herself chiming in :).

I've always thought 30 days on partials (with agents), and 90 days on fulls (with anyone), but that's just from what I've read on the Internets.

Also, that stalking story is WAAAAY creepy :(. How did you finally make that dude go away? Bars on the windows? Restraining order? Attack mice?

dadshouse said...

Thanks for the advice. I had multiple editors request a manuscript from me at a conference I attended two years back. I did not have an agent, and I sent those manuscripts in to the requesting editors. I figured since several editors showed interest, the agents would drop in my lap. They didn't. I think agents prefer being involved from the start. And the leverage angle you mention is huge. I'll try a different approach at the next conference I attend.

Charles Gramlich said...

I would think 3 months would be reasonable on a submission, but if someone asked to see something I would think one month would be appropriate.

scott g.f.bailey said...

Whenever I send materials to him, I always tell my agent that I will bug him in a month if I don't hear back from him. He's always been cool with that.

clindsay said...


I concur with Janet - 90 days! 90 days! Or my head will explode!

Thank you, my friend!


Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I think 30 days is reasonable. At least to ask if they got it-- an e-mail isn't obtrusive-- you just open it and read ot, or delete it.

This is the Twitter era, people. I publish books on income taxation-- that means I need to have a 30-60 day turnaround on a complete manuscript before it gets to the publisher.

How do you survive on months and months of waiting? That would drive me batty.

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

OMG the comments from Janet, Colleen and the others are cracking me up!

"No-no, Moonrat, the rule is three months, remember? THREE months. *Smile* It's always been three months. Moonrat just misspoke. Moonrat just needs a little rest. Come with us, Moonrat..."

sanjeet said...

think I'd wait 60 to 90 days. Being too pushy isn't good.

Work from home India

Joe Perrone Jr. said...

Forget about the agent. Been there, done that. Self publish! I went the self-publishing route three years ago, and I've never looked back. I'm selling 1,000 books per month (between Kindle, eBooks, paperbacks). I've been approached for representation in two foreign countries (Germany and Turkey), and the sky's the limit. Check out Mark Coker's great article in The Huffington Post. If you're not familiar with Mark, he is the founder of Smashwords, a wonderful eBook publisher with worldwide distribution. Good luck with your book.