If you have an article or complete novel out there being read by someone in the magazine or publishing world and it's been months and you don't know if they still have it or sent it back or burned it or are laughing themselves silly about it over martinis at one of those sushi bars so you decide to send one of those polite little letters to ask about its status because you've been told it's an okay thing to do – I've just got one word of advice.
If you have given them the amount of time stated that they would get back to you and they haven't gotten back to you, consider it a rejection and move on. I will personally guarantee you that, if they don't tell you how long to wait, and you only wait a month and then write that nice little "can you tell me the status of my submission I'm just curious because maybe it got lost in the ether-world" letter too soon, you will within two weeks get a rejection.
Happens to me every time.
You'd think I'd learn my lesson. Uh-uh. Impatience is a writer's worst enemy. Don't give a publisher a reason to think you'll be "difficult to work with." I can just see old Bill now, he opens the letter, sees my polite query after waiting only four months for word, stamps rejected on the novel that he actually quite enjoyed and sends it back. Do you know how many novels he has to read in a week? Me either. But I do know that there are writers out there who have learned their lesson long before me. And Bill would rather work with them.
Because they have patience.
I still remember vividly the first time I blew it. Finally, after years of trying, I got a major publisher (Llewellyn) to read my novel. They liked the query, liked the novel, sent it back and asked me to flesh out the characters. So I added another 100 pages. I loved it! We were on our way! Then I had to wait for final word. I kept a journal of my thoughts during this time, can you imagine doing that? You can?
October 31st – sent the rewrite out.
November 28th – "hope this isn't a mistake. Am sending out a follow-up to Lewellyn." (See, already I had a clue, but couldn't stop myself.)
December 7th – got the novel back. Form letter rejection.
Form letter rejection? After all that?
As all we so-far unsuccessful novelists know, sending a novel out to be professionally read is like making out in the back of a VW Beetle. It's that cramped, can't-we-hurry-up-and-get-this-over-with-in-a-good-way kind of feeling. If we could only just think and act like second-time successful novelists the first time, we'd be first time successful novelists by now.
Once I showed extreme patience and waited a year and then sent a followup. They responded that they had no idea what happened to that novel but if I wanted to, I could send it again. I did. They rejected it after a month. Oh yes, that was a lot better. Like inflating an old tired balloon and then running it over with a truck.
So I decided to think professional. I got an agent. Well, actually, she got me. Getting an agent is like waiting for a bus on Sunday, when they don't run on Sunday and you end up walking that five miles to Griffith Park yourself, only to find it's closed on Sunday, too.
With an agent I thought it would be a lot easier to wait. And it was in a way, because I wasn't allowed to make the decision of whether or not to do a follow-up letter. And publishers reject more quickly to agents than to writers. But once she got all the rejections she could possibly tolerate on one particular novel, I decided to query e-publishers, figuring emails had a quicker turnaround time. Problem is, I wanted to send a quicker follow-up!
Ah, patience is hell.
But I've decided that, hereon in, if they like it, they'll let me know. I'm going to start learning from my own experience – and by the way, patience works! I got my first publisher that way. I found out that editors who like my work let me know promptly. It's only those who don't – who don't.
So now, publishers and editors, beware. I will only give you six months – no, wait, four – no, three – oh, okay, six – before I feel free to send that novel or article to someone else. Because if you had been interested, you would have said something by now. Anything. Or, at the very least, wait six months before I gently and kindly ask a status update.
You wanna be a writer? Be a patient & considerate writer. Success is worth waiting for.