When I was starting out in the book business the commonly accepted period for an editor to consider a submission was one month. Longer than that was not only considered rude, but unprofessional. If you couldn’t make your mind up after a month then that probably meant you didn’t care for it sufficiently to be the person to take it on, were too indecisive or too disorganised.
Above all though I was told it was a matter of respect to the writer: the people on whose shoulders we all of us stand. Every manuscript we ever look at represents years of distilled effort and hope and deserves to be treated with fundamental respect.
. . . .
None of us are perfect: any agent or editor is processing more submissions than they comfortably know what to do with and things do fall through the cracks, but the death of communication skills has reached epidemic proportions. It has of course coincided with the period when the power and authority of editors has been eroded as never before. Do editors not say no because they can no longer say yes?
The slowness and tortuousness of the acquisition process generates some absurd scenarios. It is far from uncommon for books to be acquired a full year after submission.
. . . .
It is certainly not an efficient system. Agents are (by and large) sympathetic to the tough times publishers are having and we all know that books are acquired by committee and that that can take time and be something of an arbitrary and political process. Editors do not need to pretend (as they generally do) that the decision to acquire is theirs alone.
Not only is that pompous, but their failure to communicate, even to say no, really does anger authors. They hate it with a passion. Rightly so. They feel messed around and treated with contempt: at best some sort of cats paw to the editor’s career, to be kept in play just in case they might be making a mistake in turning it down and at worst like a talentless waste of space polluting the world with their trash: not even worth rejecting.
. . . .
One of Amazon’s more brilliant strokes has been the way in which it has made common cause with the internet’s huge authorial community against the ‘legacy’ publishers. Every self publishing success that Amazon helps create seems like one in the eye for publishers to all of those authors out there who feel angry NOT because they were rejected, but because of the WAY they were rejected, or because no one actually bothered to respond at all.
Link to the rest at FutureBook and thanks to Tony for the tip.