by Raelene Gorlinsky
I got an email from one of our editors:
[Author] pitched a book to me at the [Conference]. She said she had met you about two years ago and pitched to you then and you said to submit the full but she was too insecure to do that.
This actually is not unusual. Which got us discussing why an author, after working so hard to finish a book and then bravely pitching it to an editor/agent at a conference or sending a query letter about it, would fail to respond to a request to send the manuscript for review. Honestly, if we ask to see it, we want to see it. We're not just doing it to be "nice"—we've got massive piles of submissions to read, we wouldn't encourage ones we didn't think might be good.
So here's what we came up with as possible explanations. If you've encountered this situation and have some other ideas, please contribute.
● You sold the story elsewhere. Great, we're glad you are being successful. But please email and let us know, so we can take it off our "expecting to see" list (or pull it from the reading queue, if you'd already sent it).
● "Life happened"—There was a major personal or family change that has severely impacted your writing time. Of course, you should already have had this story finished and polished and ready to send before you pitched it. But maybe you realistically see that if it were accepted now or if you were asked to make revisions and resubmit, you wouldn't have time to deal with it until you've had the baby or divorced the husband or moved back from Antarctica or dealt with some lengthy crisis.
If this occurs, let the editor know. Don't have her form a bad opinion of you due to your lack of response. Just email and briefly explain the issue and that you hope it will be all right to send the requested manuscript in future.
● You died. Maybe you should have left a note for your estate executor, so that person can notify us. (Okay, probably not so important in your scheme of things if you are no longer amongst the living.)
● You are living out a cliche from a novel: you've been kidnapped by terrorists, developed amnesia, been swept off your feet and to the Middle East by a billionaire sheik, or been offered your dream job at an incredible salary as long as you go live on a completely isolated island with your anonymous employer's young children. In this case, we forgive you for not getting back to us. But do contact us, because we're dying to hear all about this!
Notice the repeated refrain? Communicate! If an editor/agent asks to see your manuscript and then never hears from you, this is going to leave a negative impression. Don't burn bridges, even if you have moved on or become successful elsewhere—the publishing world is not that big, you may need this person someday.