You finished your manuscript up, searched your markets, picked one that is looking for your kind of work and sent it off. You list your submission on your tracker sheet and put down how long the editor takes to respond.
So you wait for the envelope in the mail. And before you know it, the time frame for his response has come and gone, and still no reply. Now what do you do?
First off, do not assume the editor hates the piece and just trashed it without even letting you know. There are many reasons why an editor takes longer than their standard reading period. Most of these reasons have nothing to do with your submission. Just follow these steps to find out what happened.
1. Wait the time period the editor has listed in his guidelines plus two weeks. You never know when someone will be sick or overburdened in their job. Give the editor a few extra weeks to allow for illness, family emergencies, and work issues.
2. Once the response time has passed, send the editor a letter requesting status on your submission. Be polite and respectful in your inquiry. Mention your name, your submissions title, when you sent it and ask when you can expect a reply. Remember to include an SASE with your letter. While some authors call the editor, I have found most editors do not have the time to take status calls.
3. If you receive a response, wait the amount of time the editor tells you it will take for a reply, plus three days. If you do not get a response within a week, call the editor. Do not be surprised if you do not get through to the editor on the first try. Leave a detailed message and make sure they have your number correctly.
4. If you do not get a reply within a week, call again. Be sure to let the person answer the phone know this is your second call and that you left a message the first time. Continue to be polite and professional; there is no need to be rude to the person on the other end of the phone. If you have to leave a message, do so. But this time only allow three days before you take the next step.
5. If you make it to this step it is time to make some hard decisions. At this point, you can figure you are certainly being ignored by the editor, and you have two things you can do about it. One is leave your submission there and see what happens. The other is sending your submission out to another editor. If you really do not want to work with your current editor, send him a withdrawal letter.
Now, what if the editor tells you that yes yes they do have your submission. What do you do then?
6. If he says he has it and is still considering it, ask him how much time does he need to make a decision? If it takes longer than that time, you need to either contact him, or withdraw your submission.
7. If he says he has to look for it and will let you know, but does not get back to you, give him a week to find it. If he still has not responded, either contact him or withdraw your work.
8. If he says he never got it, you can send him a new copy and start the whole process over. This is the hardest step, since you have already been waiting from the first submission.
If an editor loses one submission do not be afraid to try them again with another manuscript. But an editor that loses two submissions is one you should not submit to again.
Everyone has bad days, weeks and even months, even editors. And those difficult times can lead to longer response times. But it does not mean you have to wait forever for a reply on your submission. If you stay professional and take the initiative you can keep your manuscript from lingering in an editor's no man's land.