As a former editor of Primavera, a literary journal, I understand how time-consuming it is to correspond with authors who submit manuscripts. I spent a lot of time writing detailed personal letters to authors before e-mail was widespread. I even got thank-you letters for my rejection notes because writers are eager to get specific feedback.
Recently, many book publishers have told authors that writers will receive a response within six months only if the editors are interested in publishing a manuscript or seeing some work from the author. I find this new policy confusing. Many publishers take much longer than their stated time period to respond to authors. For example, I recently heard from a publisher thirteen months after sending my manuscript. The editors apologized for the delay, said that their staff was depleted, and rejected my work. Now when I do not hear from editors, I have no idea whether 1) they don’t like my work, 2) they have lost my manuscript, 3) they never received my work, or 4) the editors need more time to evaluate my submission.
The old system of having editors respond to authors with a brief letter or an e-mail was much less ambiguous and more respectful to writers. I urge publishers to communicate clearly to writers, even if the judgment comes as a one-sentence e-mail.
Originally posted on July 4, 2011