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Be a Follower
by Kathryn Lay

You wait and watch the mailbox, hoping to hear news on that manuscript that has seemed to disappear in some unknown sinkhole in the publishing world.

When and how should you follow-up on a manuscript? What is the best approach? Will it bring about a sale or a faster rejection?

Look over the information you have about the magazine or book publisher. Does it give a response time? Double it. Editors are inundated with piles of manuscripts, contracted manuscripts to edit and get ready for publication, writers and authors to work with, and meetings to attend. More and more manuscripts are filling slush piles. Expect it to take longer than originally stated. Often, if they are seriously considering your piece, it will take longer to discuss it with other editors or staff members and make a decision.

So when should you give a little push?

If I haven’t heard back on a project within a reasonable time (twice the expected time), I write a polite note reminding the editor that I sent the manuscript (giving the title) to them on a specific date and ask if I can get an update on the status. I send along a self-addressed stamped postcard with this information:


(Title of manuscript in upper left corner)

___________ Manuscript still under consideration

___________ Manuscript has been returned



This way, they need little more to do than check the appropriate box and make a comment and return it.

Sometimes, this brings a quicker rejection. I don’t believe the follow-up CAUSED the rejection, only got the editor to make a decision or get it back in the mail. That way, I can stop waiting and wondering, and resend it out again.

Many times, I’ve received a quicker sale, prompting the editor to review it and make a decision.

What happens if you send the follow-up and still don’t get a response?

Give it another 30 days before sending a second follow-up, reminding the editor how long they have had the manuscript. After 30 more days, write a polite note removing the manuscript from consideration.

I waited on one manuscript at a magazine for almost six months before sending a follow-up. I really wanted to be published there and didn’t want to rock the boat. I waited another month before sending another follow-up. Still no response. After my third follow-up, I got a note back that they didn’t remember receiving the manuscript and would I care to send it again.

By then I was upset and yes, I did care and no I didn’t resend it.

Nearly four months later, I received a phone call from the editor of the magazine saying that she found the manuscript on her desk and was it still available? It was, and they published it. But I have learned my lesson about this publication. I have sent more manuscripts, but I only give them three months before I send it elsewhere.

This is your career, your work. Don’t be afraid to check on it. I’ve known writers to let book manuscripts sit with editors as long as 2 or 3 years without following up. Be not afraid!

Organization Tip

Keep accurate records of your manuscript whereabouts. Try keeping a follow-up calendar. Write the name of the manuscript and who has it on the date you have decided to follow-up.

© Copyright 2000, Kathryn Lay

Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through rlay15@aol.com

Other articles by Kathryn Lay :

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