When, after years of dithering and wringing my hands and wrestling with self-doubt, I finally started submitting manuscripts to publishers, I did my best to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”.
I prepared myself mentally and emotionally for the barrage of rejection letters I knew would be flooding my inbox, thought at times I was almost too nervous to check my email.
What I didn’t anticipate was the crushing impact of silence.
Rejection letters hurt, don’t get me wrong, but I find the sting to be only temporary. With each rejection I weep a little, I wallow in self-pity a little, and then I move on with my life. I close one door, and move on to the next.
But silence doesn’t let you go. It clings to you, dangling hope in front of you, pulling it away then bringing it back again in a cruel game. Silence fuels the little voice in the back of your mind that says, “maybe they just haven’t read it yet, maybe they’re just very behind schedule, maybe it got lost in the mail, maybe I’ll hear from them tomorrow, maybe, maybe, maybe…..” Silence keeps you endlessly refreshing your email, clinging to every last shred of hope, unable to fully let go and move on with your life.
I have had enough manuscripts disappear into the ether to have a few thoughts on the subject.
And so, for my fellow writers who are coping with the deafening roar of silence, I offer these ideas, to help get us all through.
DON’T take the lack of response personally – publishers are busy. Very, very busy. The big publishing houses receive tens of thousands of submissions annually. They simply don’t have the time or the resources to respond to each and every submission. Just because a publisher doesn’t respond to your submission doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer or the creator of a worthless manuscript. It honestly has nothing to do with you or me, and everything to do with the nature of the business. Remember that!
DON’T harass a publisher – it’s so tempting to send a quick email follow up, or to leave a brief phone message just following up on the status of a submission, but this does little to endear you to publishers, and really won’t help your case at all. Once you’ve submitted a manuscript, the ball is entirely out of your hands, and firmly in the publisher’s court. There’s really nothing you can do at this point but wait.
DO check the publisher’s submissions timelines – does the publisher suggest a certain response timeline? If so, wait a bit longer than the listed time period, then move on with your life. The publisher might not give you closure, but you can create it for yourself.
DO keep busy! Keep writing, keep reading, keep researching, keep submitting (most large publishers don’t mind multiple submissions, but be sure to check their submissions guidelines to be on the safe side)! I have always found being busy to be the best antidote for worrying, and is the surest way to eventually get your manuscript published!
Silence sucks, querying is decidedly unpleasant, and waiting is nerve-wracking, but it is all part of the publication journey, so we all have to muddle through it together as best we can!