Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Utter Silence of the Non-Rejection

As a bookseller, I post a lot of book recommendations. And then, on occasion, I've written about brain aneurysms (and also in this rather odd Valentine's Day post -- hey I'm a brain aneurysm survivor; I'm entitled).

But I don't often write about being a struggling writer of children's books. There are a lot of wonderful blogs out there about trying to get published. Read Mike Jung's hilarious blog, for instance, especially if you're interested in writing for middle grades. Or the First Novels Club. Or Frankie Diane's blog. Or Shannon's, if you're writing young adult. For picture book authors, you can't do better than Tara Lazar's blog. And there are others too numerous to mention. Thousands of us are on the same journey and it's a rocky one. Congrats to those, like Frankie and Shannon, who've recently found agents, and to Tara, who not only found an agent but got a contract for her picture book, THE MONSTORE, due in 2012 from Aladdin.

Being an aspiring writer, I've been submitting (mostly picture book) manuscripts to editors over the past few years. I currently have 5 different stories out with 12 different editors. And I've been waiting and hoping to hear something. Anything. Even a rejection letter is better than silence. But there's a disturbing new trend among publishers. What trend is that? The one in which you receive no response at all.




After a few months, you look back at your submissions log and realize, hey, I never heard from them. And if it's more than 3 or 4 months, you realize that means they don't want your manuscript (*sniff*) and that they've recycled it. While I'm all for the green initiative of recycling unwanted paper (and I would actually prefer email submissions -- it's greener and cheaper), I'm dejected by this new trend. There's more closure to receiving an actual rejection. Even a form email rejection would be an improvement.

Here's what one publisher says:

Charlesbridge accepts unsolicited manuscripts submitted exclusively to us for a period of three months. “Exclusive Submission” should be written on all envelopes and cover letters.

Due to the high volume of submissions, we respond only to manuscripts of interest to us.

All other manuscripts will be recycled. If you have not heard back from us after three months, you may assume we do not have a place for your project and submit it elsewhere.

Exclusive is something else that's quickly falling by the wayside. I'm surprised they're still expecting that.

Here's another:
As of January 1, 2007, Penguin Young Readers Group imprints will no longer respond to your unsolicited submission unless interested in publishing it.

And another, from Marshall Cavendish:
Please keep in mind that we receive many unsolicited manuscripts, and that we do read all manuscripts. For this reason, we will not send out a response unless we’re interested in publication. Therefore, if an author has not heard from us within eight to nine months of submitting a manuscript, it means there is no interest. Authors may submit to other publishers simultaneously.

Eight to nine months is unusual. At least they let you submit to other publishers simultaneously.

What do you think about this trend? Have you been dejected by the non-rejection? How do you cope?


  1. Aw, thanks for the blog shout-out! I can't lie, I don't love the non-responses, but I understand why they're being used. Getting a response of some kind does make it a little (just a little) easier to move on, though.

  2. With submitting to agents by email, non-rejection is frustrating too, because sometimes there are no guidelines as to WHEN a non-rejection can be counted as a rejection... plus, with email, there's the additional thought that maybe the spam monster ate the submission. How do you know, ya know? Le sigh.

  3. Exactly, Donna. You have absolutely no way of knowing if they ever received it in the first place. You'd think agents would have auto responders, so you'd at least know your email reached their inbox.

    With snail mail submissions, some SCBWI members send a stamped postcard for the editor to send back saying they received your ms, but I would worry that might annoy the heck out of them. So I've never done it.

    Thanks, Frankie. Yes, I know, but it's frustrating.

    Hey, Mike. Nice to see you over here on my little blog.


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