Friday, November 12, 2010


By Patt Mihailoff

We all know that when we got into the business of writing it wouldn't be easy. Then how come it seemed so darned uncomplicated for Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts and Stephen King? Hell, we have stories to tell, how come we don't get a chance to tell them?

That, my friends is the beast that rides me like the witch hag in a nightmare.

Jean Luc Picard (Star Trek the Next Generation) said, "you'll soon come to realize that there are far fewer days ahead and a brief time to remember those that are behind us."

Since not many of you are as old as I am, let me tell you, I can relate.

Which begs the question each and every one of you have asked at one time or another (whether you voice it out loud or not): HOW DAMNED LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SAY NO?

You all know exactly where I am going with this. When submitting your work to publishers editors, agents, et al, that little phrase NO SIMUTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS PLEASE! Skitters up and down your literary spine like ants at a gourmet picnic.

Now if you're thirteen years old and sending your work out for the first time, this could work for you because time is what you have plenty of. But when the years start racing by (and they will youngun's) like a Nascar on the fast track, you will understand that you need to have your work read in far less time than it takes for a new universe to form.

Editors say they know what they want and in fact have given speeches and seminars on just what they are looking for, and I have often wondered why (when a detailed "as requested" synopsis) is sent, it takes so long to say yes or no?

Now before any agents editors and protectors of those therein get up in arms, I KNOW the workload they have. Everybody and their last two generations of relatives has, have or wants to write a book, and each thinks his/hers/theirs is the next great thing which adds to their slush piles (have I answered my own dumb question here? I think so).

In any case, last year Liberty States invited a wonderful multi-published author who said that she never ever lets any of her queries and/or manuscripts stay with any publisher longer than eight weeks, six being her norm. Only once (like me) did she have a problem with two publishers who wanted her work and she had to make a choice and live with it.

I know someone who submitted a manuscript and waited three years before receiving a rejection. Well folks, I just don't have that kind of time, but like you I know its a waiting game and hit or miss, and we'll continue to do what we do because we love it and hopefully be able to exhale when the word is YES!

P.S. You know some of you wanted to say this now didn'tcha?


Patt Mihailoff’s first fantasy, FIREBRAND, was written with her friend Kathye Quick. Patt’s first novel, RING DANCER’S DESTINY, was released in 2007. Her fourth novel, SINGLE HEART, SINGLE LOVE was just released (April 2009) by Cerridwen Press.


  1. I know this issue is a sore point (a few of us chatted about it at PYHIAB). I will admit that I am one of those people who does not submit simultaneously if the publisher requests no sim-subs. (And some are actually saying now, no simultaneous queries - a whole different thing). I figure that it is really a small world and I'd be the one who ends up getting "caught". That said, all publishers indicate an anticipated time frame on their site or within their submission guidelines. So why do some folks wait 3 years? If they say they'll respond in 6 months, then at the end of six months, drop a line and say, "hey, what's up? want my book or not, time's awastin'?!". Then go on and submit to the next name.

    Are these people who are waiting so long checking in with the publishers? Any panel or meeting where I've heard publishers speak, they all say that it is totally fine to check in after a reasonable time has passed, esp. if it is the outside time they indicate for a response. And if you get no response to that polite check-in, then off you go - submitting to the next house in good conscience and with a spotless record!

    We've all seen how fast gossip spreads. I can only assume it travels just as fast in the publishing editor circles.

    My choice: to be as professional as possible, follow their guidelines, but absolutely follow up reasonably and if they don't follow through professionally, then just move on.

  2. Patt, Coming from the woman that has the (you know what) to call the muses heffas, it doesn't surprise that you put this in writing. Great question and thanks for posting it! I agree that dropping a note to ask the status of a submission is a great idea.

  3. Editors expect--and need--authors to meet their deadlines, barring unforeseen circumstances. As an author, I expect a similar courtesy from editors. Hey, we're all professionals here, so let's give each other professional respect.

    But even I have had times when a deadline was almost, but not quite, long enough for me to get a job done (like the time I was sick with the flu for one whole week out of a three-week project period--and I didn't get my project returned a whole week late, just a couple of days late).

    That's why, like Lise, I pay attention to the response times the editors, themselves, say that they expect to have; then I add a little bit of extra time to that; but then, yes, like Lise, I make a polite inquiry: "Could you please tell me what is the status of my manuscript?" As long as the answer isn't "Huh?" or "Oh, I think that might've been one of the ones we lost when we were rearranging the office a couple months back," I'm fine, and I'm willing to continue working with them, with a revised deadline for them to respond to me. Because, like I said, we're all professionals--right?