You’ve labored carefully over your manuscript for hours. You’ve revised it, then shared it with other savvy readers for feedback, and then revised again. You’ve researched editors and publishers and found a couple of options that seem like they would be a great fit with your story. You’ve prepared a cover letter that winsomely captures the essence of your story, and you’ve prepared a flawless copy of your manuscript. You’ve mailed it off with all your hopes and dreams, and then . . . you wait.
This is one of the hardest parts about being an author. And the reality is that most of the time either you will hear nothing back, or you’ll receive a rejection.
So what can you do while you wait for a response?
It’s easy—and perfectly understandable—to be impatient when you don’t hear anything back, but bear in mind that most publishers receive a great many submissions. Giving those submissions careful attention while also juggling the deadlines of however many books the publisher has already signed up—all of this takes time. Resist the urge to call to see if the editor has reviewed your manuscript. If you’re worried that your submission will get misplaced or lost in the mail, send along a self-addressed, stamped postcard. It’s easy for the publisher to drop this in the mail to confirm receipt.
Use your waiting time to get busy writing again.
No matter the outcome for your submission, you’ll be glad to have another project in the works. It will bring you peace of mind to know that all your hopes aren’t resting on one project.
Most publishers will list a time period—usually three to six months—after which you can assume that they are not interested in your project. If those months have come and gone, then it’s time to move on. Write more. Get feedback on your writing from smart friends, and polish it more. Submit to other houses.
And what if you finally do receive a response, but it’s not the one you wanted?
It’s not personal. Pretty much every writer has had to deal with more rejections than they would care to count. Out of the hundreds or thousands of submissions a publisher receives in a year, they are only able to publish a select few. Don’t let a rejection letter cripple you.
Remember that even a form rejection is helpful feedback.
Editors are in the business of trying to help writers to the best work they can. Sometimes that means telling authors that their work isn’t a fit for a particular publishing house. After all, as an author, you want to find an editor who believes in you and your work—and you want to find a publisher who can do the best work of publishing your book.
Pay careful attention to any feedback you receive.
If the rejection letter contains any specific critiques, be grateful. It means that an editor cared enough about your work to take the time to offer feedback. If the editor criticizes the story or the writing, reexamine your writing. Do they have a point? Share the manuscript with another reader or two; do they have similar concerns? If the editor writes that your manuscript isn’t a fit for their publishing house, pay attention to that as well—your story may work just fine for another publisher. Again, you want to find the right home for your work.
And, most importantly, even if you do receive a rejection or two, keep writing! All of this is part of the process of becoming a mature writer.
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Kathleen Merz is managing editor for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Read her From the Editor’s Desk column—packed with editorial insight and behind-the-scenes info on Eerdmans books—one Thursday a month here on Eerdlings.