April 12, 2012


Waiting to hear from a publisher after a work has been submitted is, like all forms of waiting, difficult. John Milton tried to put a good face on the experience when he wrote, “They also serve who stand and wait.” He meant well, I’m sure. But only those about to be executed welcome delay.   

Beginning writers often ask how soon they should receive a reply to their submissions from an editor. I tell them there’s no rule. Anyway, I’m not sure I’m the one to give advice.

(courtesy: Niemann.blog.nytimes.com)

Once I waited two years for an answer on “Gothic Spring” only to discover the company had folded.  

If the publisher hasn’t given any guidelines, my suggestion is to wait six weeks  before inquiring about a magazine submission, three months for a novel. Impatience won’t hurry the process, it’s true; but waiting too long can be an exercise in futility. After three months with no word from one magazine, I queried the editor about a story I’d submitted. I received an apology in reply. Not only had my submission  been accepted, but the story had been published the previous month.  

How soon a writer hears from a publisher is sometimes affected by events he would seldom imagine. On one occasion my submission was lost in a staff upheaval.      

To the anxious writer, as well as to anyone glaring at the clock with impatience, I can only state the obvious: there is little we can do about time. For some of us it goes too fast; for others it goes too slow. The wise man practices patience. As I am not wise, I start a new project to divert my thoughts.