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How long is it worth waiting for a nonresponsive publisher?

My publisher is apparently General McClellan. He has the slows.

I submitted my query in July, along with the first four pages.

In September, he let me know he got the excerpt, but said he wouldn't be able to read it until "next week."

In November, he told me he loved the excerpt and wanted to see the whole thing. I sent it over.

On March 3rd, he told me he wanted to publish it and asked if it was still available.

On the 4th, I told him it was. On the same day, he said he'd have a contract ready in two days.

I still don't have the contract.

How bad a sign is this as to the publisher's quality and the effort he'll put in? I can understand it takes a while to read a book, but I'd think he'd at least have a prewritten contract. (There's not much about this publisher on the Internet--I just submitted because hardly anyone else takes stories 17K words long.) Also, was there a previous point when I should have given up on him?

Philip Overby

Article Team
Hmm...hard to say. If you're already seeing some red flags, maybe your instinct is kicking in. Publishing is a slow moving business, so I'd fully expect it to move at this kind of pace. However, time is a valuable commodity. If a publisher says they'll send a contract in two days and they haven't yet, for me it means:

1. They're very busy.
2. It's taken longer to sort out than they thought.
3. They may not be taking this as seriously as you.

The third one is the most concerning. You ideally want a publisher who is going to be as excited about your work as you are. Have they shared with you any plans they have to promote your work? Have they been transparent about what they can and cannot offer you? There are numerous questions to consider I think.

I wouldn't quite give up yet, as the only thing you mentioned that seems strange is that he said he'd send the contract over in two days and it's now almost the end of March.

I'd say give them the benefit of the doubt and see if you hear something within the next couple of weeks. But, if you're feeling uneasy about it now, perhaps this is an early warning sign.

It's hard to tell without being in both of your shoes, so I try not to be too cynical when it comes to these situations.


I will add that you can check out the publisher's website and online places such as Amazon or Smashwords or B&N.

Are new works being put out by this publisher? If nothing is happening...nothing has been published between the time your work was accepted and now...that would concern me more than if your work was accepted, and is simply awaiting its turn in the queue for editing, cover art, etc., while those before it march toward and are published.


Felis amatus
Not a good sign, certainly.

I agree with TWErvin about looking into a publisher. Is it worth going with them, and giving them X%, based on what they appear to be doing? If they're a small, relatively unknown publisher who is having problems sticking to their deadlines, you'd probably be better off publishing the thing yourself.
I went past the first page of Google search results this time. Turns out a): this guy actually does publish new books and magazines at a fairly regular rate, and promotes them reasonably well, but b): he has a reputation for being really hard to contact. (Also c): the name he's been using on correspondence isn't his real name, probably because his real name is connected to a site accusing him of child molestation. Yikes.)