On 4 October 2000 I forwarded a manuscript called "The Silence of Medair" to the submissions editor of one of the "Big Few" publishers of science fiction and fantasy which still accept non-agented submissions. For the purpose of this saga I'll call them 'Glacier Publications'.

 

4 October 2000

MS forwarded by snailmail to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

 

May 16, 2001

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi - in October last year I submitted a manuscript (The Silence of Medair), and about four months later sent a query letter with stamped postcard to make sure that it had arrived. Since this didn't come back, would it be possible to let me know whether or not the manuscript was ever received?

Thanks.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Dear Ms Hosth,

Your ms has passed first reading, which is why it's still here. I don't know if your follow-up letter got here, I would have replied if it had.

Our senior editors are very backed up right now, and I can't even guess when they ([...] the only people here who can "buy" a book) will be able to look at your book. In the hopefully-not-too-long meantime, we deeply appreciate your patience and understanding.

 

11 July 2002

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hello - again, just checking to see if "Medair" is still there. [I'm operating on the assumption that it is in a queue and will eventually be read - I try to check in every six months or so because I've had a reasonable amount of lost snailmail in the past.]

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Still here and waiting. Soon, hopefully, I'm going through all the "passed" ms's and picking the top 10%. Then I can return the rest.

 

14 March 2003

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hello, pestering again. Shall I send a niggling little reminder every month or so, or just accept that TSoM isn't going to make it through your slush pile?

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Your book is one of the next ones to be reviewed, but it is going more slowly than I had hoped.

All pestering perfectly acceptable!

 

20 May 2003

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi - checking in again. [Just re-read it actually, and am resisting the urge to split the thing into two novels. :) ]

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

We have a new employee who will be able to help with second reading once she settles in, at which point we hope things will speed up.

 

31 October 2003

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi - pestering again. It's now three years since I submitted "Medair" to [Glacier]. Can you let me know if there's any real likelihood that I'll receive a response before, say, the end of the year?

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Hello--not before the end of the year, but your ms is with the next batch to be reviewed.

 

30 May 2004

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

We're now heading toward the four year mark of this ms' submission. Could you let me know if there is any likelihood of "The Silence of Medair" being reviewed in the near future? I really would like to clear this submission up one way or the other. If it is not suitable for your house, please let me know.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Your ms is with the next bunch to be reviewed, so hopefully not too much longer.

 

21 January 2005

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi. Is this still in the queue at all?

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

It's #2 in the queue.

 

9 April 2005

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Four and a half years now on this submission. Is there any realistic end in sight?

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

You're next up. I asked our second reader when she would be able to review your book, and placed it on her shelf, so she knows just where it is. She said four to six weeks--six to be safe.
Thanks for being patient!

 

15 October 2005

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

October is the five-year anniversary of this submission.

So...shall we try for ten?

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Congratulations of a sort--of the last dozen or so books that have had a second reading, yours is the only one that is being passed up to a senior editor. Sorry I can't say when it will have a look, but you passed over a big bump.

Good luck, and thank you for your continued patience.

 

12 March 2007

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Just my six-monthly check in.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

We will have a new employee who will do second reading. I'll have him read Silence as the one ms that has passed 2nd reading.

 

3 September 2007

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi - just checking in to see if this is still there.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Still here--I had hoped he would have had time by now, but a bunch of emergencies arose--again--but you're still on the top of the heap.

 

13 February 2008

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Just checking in that this is still in the queue.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Still is--I talked to the reader who had passed it up as well as the other second reader, and we decided it does not need another second reading before a senior editor takes a look. The question is, when will they have time for that? I know they're both way backed up. I will ask today. If I don't get back to you this week, please e-mail me.

 

[Next email had no reply.]

 

6 November 2008

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

I don't think I heard back to you on this one.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Things are going slower than ever, [...]. Everyone is taking up the extra slack, we are all busier than ever. But I asked one of our senior editors (the official book buyers) if she will have time to look in the next six months, and she said yes. She specified January, so please send me an email then, and I'll see it's put on her desk.

Thanks for your continued patience!

 

9 January 2009

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Hi-she's not here today, PLEASE send me this note next Tuesday-I'm working the warehouse tomorrow & she's back on Tuesday--thanks!

 

13 January 2009

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Done.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

[Senior Editor ] said not this week, but she could look at your ms the last week of the month. Could you please send an email on the 27th?

Thanks!

 

[Next email had no response.]

 

14 April 2009

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] - I'm guessing this ms is still on the to-do list somewhere. Let me know if it's no longer in the queue.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Hi Andrea,
Actually, it's way beyond the to-do list, I passed it to [Senior Editor] a while back. She's been swamped, besides just getting back from vacation, but told me she would look at it in May. Thanks for being so patient! I'm sorry this is such a lengthy process.

 

6 July 2009

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Checking this is still in the queue. I'm not altogether sure what the etiquette is with such an old submission, but I'd really like to clear this one up.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

She's in tomorrow, I'll remind her that she said she'd be looking at it. Please email me next Monday, so I can tell you what she said.

 

[The next couple of emails go unanswered.]

 

6 November 2009

Email from Me to Glacier Publications general email.

Hi - please see below an email from [Submissions Editor].

Back in October 2000 I submitted a MS to [Glacier], and since then have been regularly kept up to date by [Submissions Editor] as to the submission status as it moved through first and second readers, up to the editors, back down to the second readers and then up to the editors again. The below email was my last contact with [Submissions Editor], and further queries have had no response. [Possibly he made his last reply by snailmail. Since I have moved address five times in the last ten years, there's every chance such a letter would not reach me.]

Can you please check your records and let me know if this submission is still in open status with your group? While a ten-year submission makes a nice anecdote, I'd really like to finalise the status of this one before it reaches that stage.

Thanks

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Dear Ms Hosth,

Please accept my apologies for not getting back to you sooner. As I've mentioned, your book has passed second reading, and awaits the final step of review by [Senior Editors]. I've mentioned this to both of them on a number of occasions, but my timing has been consistently bad. They were always in the middle of project deadlines when I made my request. Unfortunately, it gets worse, but I'm working at a happy ending. After the first of your recent emails, I attempted to locate your ms. [Senior Editor] thought it was in [Senior Editor's] office, and vice-versa. I spent about five hours looking in both offices with no luck. So I humbly and with great apology, request that you send another copy. I will discuss with [Senior Editors] the fact that you have been waiting with saint-like patience since 2000, and will hound them until I get a commitment on when one of them will be able to review your book.

With extreme gratitude,

[Submissions Editor]

 

[Replacement manuscript sent 7 November 2009. Postage cost $67AU this time, a mere $17 increase in the past decade.]

 

18 January 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi - did the replacement manuscript arrive?

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Yes!

 

6 March 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi. Is there any tentative probable date for review of this ms?

 

[No reply]

 

17 March 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] - I'm afraid I might have missed any reply to this email. I normally wouldn't requery so soon, but the last time I didn't receive a reply the manuscript had gone MIA. Is "Medair" still with [Glacier]?

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Hi Ms Hosth,

In our last instalment, the big office move had occurred. [Senior Editor's] new office is a lot smaller, a lot of manuscripts are not unpacked, and will not be until places to put them are determined. The reader who passed your book filled [Senior Editor] in with some details about your book, and [Senior Editor] agrees that she wants to take a look. I truly feel terrible about the wait we’re putting you through. Please email me in two weeks, if no unpacking has occurred, I will root through the boxes and find it for [Senior Editor].

 

31 March 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] - a two week reminder as requested (one day early as sending such emails on April Fool's Day strikes me as either inauspicious or perhaps too apposite).

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Hi Ms Hosth,

Located and put on [Senior Editor's] desk with a reminder. I know she’s deeply busy right now, but it is a move forward. I would suggest getting back to me in a month. Thank you for your saint-like patience.

 

5 May 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] – checking back in again.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

I know she has a number of books in production that she's reading right now, but I'll talk to her later today for an estimate.

 

24 May 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] – just checking in again. I'll be bugging you a lot more than usual this year since we'll hit the full ten-year mark in October and I've promised myself to try and get this submission cleared up before then.

 

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

Hi – will be out of the office until next week. Please bug me again after the 7th? Thanks!

 

8 June 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] – checking in again (plus new email address).

 

11 June 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] – re-sending in case this didn't go through. Will try from the old address next month if it looks like this address has been vanquished by the spam filters.

 

18 June 2010

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

It's being looked at this week.

 

1 July 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] - just this month's pester.

 

1 August 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor] - just this month's pester.

 

4 August 2010

Email from Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications to Me.

[Senior Editor] gave your book to our managing editor to read a while ago. I just checked to see if he had been able to look yet, and he hadn't, but will soon.

 

4 October 2010

Email from Me to Submissions Editor, Glacier Publications.

Hi [Submissions Editor]

Ten years ago today I first sent Medair off to [Glacier]. Back when we hit the five year mark, I joked about trying for ten, but I never imagined we would reach this point. I find I lack the intestinal fortitude to push on for twenty.

Please mark this submission as withdrawn.

Thank you for replying to my endless number of queries over the years, and for passing the manuscript up in the first place - whatever else, I appreciated the compliment!

Yrs
Andrea K Hosth
 
---

These are around two-thirds of the emails sent to and from 'Glacier' over the decade of this submission, but the rest are a repetitive "Is it still there?" followed by "Yes" and so have been culled.

During the ten years while this manuscript was in (exclusive) submission I wrote other books which I submitted to other publishers, and sporadically queried agents. I spent a year amusing myself with a fiction blog, played three different MMO's, worked my day job, moved house a lot, and came up with many theories as to why it would take ten years to deal with one manuscript.

Although it did occur to me that this was some bizarre form of "Publisher's Chicken", and the submissions editor just wanted to see how long it would take until I blinked, the more mundane and probable explanation is that publishers are very very (very!) busy people, and slush pile manuscripts are always the lowest of low priorities. It doesn't seem likely that mine was the only ms which made it past the first and second readers at 'Glacier' during the last decade, and I suspect that mine kept drifting to the bottom of the pile because it was overlong for a debut novel or perhaps was passed up with a note along the lines of "Will require some work to publish, but may be worth it" – or, worse, "Won't make money, but I liked it".

It constantly surprises me, when I read back over these emails, that I lasted so long. I doubt I would have if not for an earlier manuscript which spent two and a half years at a different publisher (until I withdrew it). That editor would never even answer queries so I had the greatest difficulty determining whether it was still with them. By contrast Glacier's submissions editor was almost always prompt answering my emails, and the content of his feedback was more than positive. And I'd learned from the earlier submission that no matter how many years they keep it, you don't gain anything by withdrawing it.

Though I must say I could have done without the email which began 'Congratulations of a sort' – there is only one kind of email beginning with 'congratulations' that a submissions editor should send to a slush pile author, and that was not it.

There is an essential powerlessness in the slush pile – you either wait, or you withdraw. [Indeed, there's a large portion of powerlessness served up to published authors as well, who are rarely given any say on questions of covers, let alone DRM.] When the manuscript went missing nearly nine years in, I considered simply letting the whole thing go, but figured that the second chunk of postage was not too great a cost, since the senior editors would surely be embarrassed at having lost it after such a long delay, and want to get the replacement off their desks as quickly as possible.

That didn't happen.

This page is a long-winded explanation of why I decided to self-publish. 'Glacier' wasn't the only reason: in some fifteen years of submissions the focus/style/quality of my novels evidently never passed the test with any publisher or agent. But they were the stories I wanted to tell. The ten-year mark on "Medair" did me the favour of forcing me to seriously consider what I wanted from my writing, and look at the other options which had opened in the decade since I mailed off that chunk of paper.

Self-publishing is not an easy route for gaining readers. While it does mean you can have input on the covers, and choose not to inflict DRM on the ebook versions, without the experience and connections of a publisher there is every likelihood of only selling copies to obliging friends and relatives. I don't recommend it as a path for anyone to rush down: I still believe having a well-established publisher is the better option for new authors trying to establish their reputations, and there is a lot of (non-writing) work and costs involved with self-publishing. It will take longer to gain readers, and there's a good deal of automatic disdain from people who state openly that they'd never read a self-published novel.

However, for all the massive advantages of gaining a publisher, the submission process comes with not inconsiderable negatives - frankly, 'Glacier' made me feel like dirt and I don't want to go back to that.  Self-publishing gave me my books on my shelves, and readers have a far better chance of discovering my stories now than they did when they were still buried on my hard drive.  That makes me happy.
 
[That Medair went on to be short-listed for the 2010 Aurealis Awards of course makes me even happier.]
 
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