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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I get an answer from my elusive publisher?

12 January 2019

9:00 AM

12 January 2019

9:00 AM

Q. What is the current etiquette regarding chasing an opinion from a publisher to whom, by agreement and via a shared acquaintance, I submitted a manuscript six weeks ago? Other than acknowledgement of receipt and an expression of enthusiasm at the prospect of reading it, I have heard nothing further from her. I am aware that the days when a rejection would take the form of an encouraging lunch and, at worst, a rejection slip have long gone. But what is the digital equivalent of a rejection slip for today’s writer? Must I assume that if, after three months, I hear nothing, the answer is no? How will I know if this publisher (some decades younger than me) has even found time to read the manuscript ? To put this into context I am a published writer of established repute.
— Name and address withheld

A. The imaginary busy-ness epidemic means that disorganised publishers can barely communicate with their own family, let alone their writers. Obviously a limbo-land of no feedback is unsatisfactory for both parties. The way forward is to stage a ‘chance’ encounter. To this end you might study the forthcoming publications of the publisher in question. Secure an invitation to the launch of one of the biggest hitters, then send the publisher an email saying you hope to see her at the party. This will give her a deadline to tackle your manuscript, so she can at least give a verbal response when you see her.


Q. I have several friends/relations who have instituted a gift-buying dynamic for birthdays or Christmas, I suspect because they wish to receive gifts from me, probably because they are childless and therefore lacking in many gifts on such occasions. However, in each of these situations, their gifts to me are without fail miserly, unwanted tat, or food to which I am intolerant. It is not my practice to buy such low-grade gifts for people, but with every passing year I am increasingly resenting the expenditure (I’m the poor relation in each of these situations — we also have several children to buy for) and also the effort. What should I do to get out of this situation? It would be difficult to address it directly because of the children/no child dynamic, which is sensitive. Please advise!
— Name and address withheld

A. For next year you might pre-empt this nuisance with an email in November which, marked Bcc (blind carbon copy) suggests there are multiple recipients but doesn’t reveal their names. The theme should be that while you have loved receiving their fabulous gifts in the past you have now, like them you imagine, reached the condition of ‘peak stuff’. Suggest instead ‘a mutual experience gift’ where you meet for a treat like lunch or a massage and each one pays for the other.


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