So things haven’t gone as you’d hoped. Your manuscript went off months ago, and your phone didn’t ring off the hook with five editors or agents vying for your awesome book.
You find yourself wondering – what are they doing with my manuscript?
Did it get lost in the mail?
Did my dog Rufus eat my rejection letter?
Did I even include my manuscript in the submission?!
Status queries are a touchy subject where people will have different opinions. Especially about:
- When to query for status
- How to query for status
I’ll give you my take on status queries.
I don’t status query. (But see below for one exception.)
Q: Gasp! Why?
A: I view status queries as a waste of time for both you and the editor or agent. You can also be an annoyance if:
- You’ve status-queried too soon from the editor’s or agent’s point of view.
- You’ve somehow given the editor or agent the impression that you can’t trust her to get to it when she gets to it.
You will never be able to control how an editor or agent will interpret your status query. While it is doubtful that editor or agent will reject your submission simply because you queried for status, it’s not exactly a positive interaction to have with him or her. At best, it is a neutral or a negative one. But more importantly, this is about you and your anxiety over something that is beyond your control.
Trust the system.
Q: But how do you get your questions about the status of your manuscript answered?
A: I make logical assumptions.
- If my book had sold or if the agent had wanted to rep me, he would find a way to reach me via email or phone. (The magazine market is a bit different though. I’m only going to speak to the fiction book market). Therefore, if the person had responded by mail, and I didn’t get it somehow, it was probably a rejection one way or another.
- If I never hear from them, no biggie. There are plenty of agents or editors in the sea. And there is nothing that precludes me from sending a different book to them – into the black hole – if I so wish. Getting no response has only happened to me once. I learned from Blue Board that other people never heard from this editor either.
- This brings me to a relevant point: there is a trend with many publishing houses and literary agencies where editors and agents will not respond unless they are interested.
- Finally, there’s one more conclusion I can draw. The editor or agent hasn’t gotten to it yet. Bingo!
Please note: If you simply must, must, must have closure, do what you need to do. Sometimes things do get lost in the shuffle, but always make sure you check the publisher’s guidelines and wait beyond the expected response time before querying.
There is one case when I do a status query:
The editor or agent has specified that she would like me to do so if a certain amount of time has passed (not too common). She wants me to nudge. I will perform the status query as the editor or agent requests, either by phone (yes, they sometimes ask for a call), by email, or by letter.
Q: But what if my manuscript is on an exclusive and they’ve had it forever?
A: Perhaps you haven’t read this post, Exclusive Submission or Simultaneous Submission? If you had, you would have known to set an expiration date on your exclusive. This date either matches what the submission guidelines were for the recipient. Or it was a date established by you if there were no guidelines and you had to grant an exclusive because of certain circumstances.
Setting an expiration date eliminates the need to let the editor know that the exclusive no longer applies. There is also no need to nudge or status query.
If you did give an exclusive and you’d like to set an expiration date with the editor or agent, then you need to give the person a status update. Read my related post, Status Updates: When and How to Do It. This article covers the cases in which you should contact the editor or agent post-submission.