What it feels like to submit a manuscript

Steven Brust nails what it feels like after you send a book in to your editor:

It has now been over an hour since I sent my [email/query/story submission/250 thousand word novel] and I have heard nothing. Nothing. I now understand Lee’s frustration at Gettysburg when Stuart didn’t show up. Has there been a fire? Has someone died? If so, I’d think you could at least drop me a note explaining the delay. It is almost as if there are things you do that don’t involve me. In fact, I could almost believe that I am not the most important person in the world to you. No, I don’t accuse you of that; but can you see how you might be giving that impression?

Have you considered what would happen if everyone behaved the way you are? I would have to learn deferred gratification. And, as you know, deferred gratification is a slippery slope that can lead to me not getting everything I want.

An Open Letter To My Editor


  1. Thinking one of my favorite authors reads another of my favorite authors is soooooo cool. Cory if you read these, do you actually read Brust’s Vlad/Khaavren series?  And if you do well I might as well ask if you also read Neal Stephenson.

  2. When I don’t hear back from an editor for an hour,  I say, “no news is good news” 

    Over a day, “Maybe they’re busy”.  Over a week, “well ain’t that rude?”. 

    A month?  I should follow up with an actual phone call.

    (Note to self:  Be nice, Art.  Maybe they didn’t receive it.

  3. It’s so easy to send a ‘got it, thanks’ message.  This is obviously some jealous torture game practiced by editors.

    I wonder how I’d cope – I’d pursue them until they acknowledged they had it, otherwise I’d be sure they didn’t.  I’d be frightfully boring to them.

    1. With online submission systems, the publisher’s computer generates the “got it, thanks” email almost immediately. It is surprisingly satisfying despite the lack of human interaction.

  4. Whenever I send in work for review and don’t hear back for a few hours, I just picture the client/editor reeling back in their chair, stunned and amazed, unable to type or, much less, communicate their joy at the finished product, and figure they just have to regain the power of speech before they can reply.

      1. Sure, at first. But then you start to get worried about their health and hope your sheer genius hasn’t given them a heart attack, and it turns to crushing guilt… vicious cycle.

        1. But just imagine how bleak and meaningless their lives would be without the light and joy your words doubtless brought to them. You are doing a service, clearly.

  5. Just replace that first part with the word ‘e-mail’ to a friend/spouse/lover.  ‘I’ve been sitting here for two hours composing this letter, and they don’t have the good grace to be sitting there waiting for it?  Are they too BUSY?!  Why am I providing any evidence that I’m thinking of them, when they’re clearly not thinking me.  Don’t I mean **anything** to them?  Well, fuck ’em.  If they don’t care, I don care either.  {delete}

        1. Of course, but it’s far less exciting than you may have imagined on your own :)

          Boy meets girl at an out-of-town convention, boy and girl get along like a house on fire, boy and girl go to their respective home towns and strike up an email correspondence. One day the correspondence suddenly cuts off. Boy and girl both sulk for days on end, thinking the other person decided to abandon the whole thing… Eventually one of them (I forget which) breaks down and send a follow up “did I say something wrong?” email — and they discover a message got lost in transit. Fast forward about three years: Boy and girl get married.

    1. I generally don’t answer e-mails until the end of the day, like three in the morning. When you work on the computer all day, it’s a bad idea to start thinking that you need to deal with everything instantly.

        1. Besides my desire to not lose my mind, it’s not a great idea to answer correspondence when I’ve got a ban-hammer in one hand and a chainsaw in the other.

          1. My weapons of choice are avoidance, sarcasm, passive-aggressive humor, and bald mockery.  What do you do with the chainsaw?

  6. “What I really want, Doctor, is this. On the day when the manuscript reaches the publisher, I want him to stand up–after he’s read it, of course–and say to his staff, ‘Gentlemen, hats off!'”
    -Albert Camus, The Plague

  7. “Has someone died? If so, I’d think you could at least drop me a note explaining the delay.”

    I’m doing an extended stint as a stay-at-home dad, and this reminds me of office life.  “Did you get the email I sent earlier?  I need your response on that right away.”  And if the person is your superior, you clamp down on your frustration as they stand there waiting for your response, so you stop what you’re doing, check your email, and respond to the email they clearly sent, then immediately stood up, walked to your desk, and proceeded to interrogate you on why you hadn’t answered their email yet…

    I took Merlin Mann’s advice on 43 Folders years ago, and set my mail client to check mail every 30 minutes.  Sometimes I wonder if I screwed myself out of a couple of raises by not constantly, obsessively checking my email…

  8. Sounds a lot like internet dating:  “Why didn’t she write me back yet, dammit?”  And it’s been, like, 15 minutes.

  9. Sounds a lot like submitting job applications online.

    It seems like an automated response would be the most basic and rudimentary courtesy, but I’d say over half the time I submit an application, I never hear back.

    That’s what’s most discouraging and dehumanizing about looking for a job. The brick and mortar places tell you to apply online, and when you do, there’s no acknowledgment that they even got the app.

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