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Need advice

I submitted a manuscript query to Penguin five months ago. They said to allow five months for a reply. This is their sci-fi imprint's website, which is where I got the directions from.

Submission - Science Fiction and Fantasy - Penguin Group (USA)

I have not heard back from them. Granted, all I was expected was a rejection letter anyway, but now I'm wondering whether I should resubmit, query a different publisher, or just what.

Any ideas from those brave souls who have navigated these stormy seas before?


Article Team
I'm not really experienced in this, but from what I've heard others say, here's what you can do. Wait another month, then send them a query about your submission, inquiring about it's status. Depending on how you want to play it, in the query you can state that you wish to withdraw your submission if they haven't gotten to it yet. Or you can wait for a reply, and if you don't get one after a second month, just send them a letter withdrawing your manuscript then submit to another market. I know this is a lot of waiting, but it's really frowned upon if send it to another market and both end up wanting to buy it. Slim as it may be, it could give you a bad rep.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Ok, question #1 - I know you're asking if you can, but there are those who feel it's better to apologize than to ask permission, so I'm asking - did you make sure to only submit to one publisher at a time. (These are dangerous waters that have sunk many a writer on their hidden reefs.) Publishing imprints are very often under the umbrella of one publishing house, and may only be doors, if not desks away from each other. My own mother went down with that ship - that's why you never hear me throw her name around.

#2 - Did you call - not just check the internet or the Writer's Guide but call ahead to the imprint's admin to make sure you were addressing your manuscript to the correct editor? Publishing is an incestuous business, and people jump houses with alarming frequency.

#3 - Did you know that it is also the holidays in New York? October - January brings things to a grinding halt as deadlines for August releases loom and everyone and their pet parakeet wants to go on holiday (not to mention the duck and cover of NaNoWriMo). So, that being the case, forget 5 months and give them 7. Publishing moves at a glacial pace - just wait until you're trying to get paid. ;)

I'm looking at 3 sets of guidelines here - yours, the one I found myself on Penguin's page, and my hardcopy of The Writer's Market, and they all basically say that same thing - Sit on your hands. I would say if you don't get a reply by February (and please tell me you saved a copy of your query in your e-mail box) then you can feel free to send them a gentle, politely worded follow-up - to the correct editor, check this again - with your original query attached in the body of the e-mail. Sweetness, politeness, and professionalism will get you far in this business.

Hope this helps!


Sending to the slush pile of major publishing houses guarantees a long wait. If they list 5 months, that is their goal but not necessarily reality. I cannot say for Penguin, but I had a SF novel take 7 months to get out of the slush pile at Tor (and another 12 months for an editor to read and eventually reject it). With Baen the process was even longer, getting out of the slush pile and passed up, again, eventually rejected. (but I did get a nice blurb from the editor/author who read it for when I did find a publisher for it).

Slush is not a high priority and they get a thousand or sometimes more submissions a month to consider. I would recommend waiting several months and then sending a polite email requesting information on your submission's status.

Easy rejections, those are the fast ones. Manuscripts that get any level of consideration take longer.

While you're waiting, work hard on that next novel.


Felis amatus
Yes, as noted above it is probably just going to take more time. Once the stated turnaround time has passed, I think it is considered acceptable to query as to the status, if you want to do that. I wouldn't query them before the stated period has elapsed, but if they say five months and it has been more than that, I think it is OK to check in with them.
Hey! Thanks to everyone who offered advice. I took the advice to wait, and it paid off. I heard back from them on January 2. Big surprise--it was a form rejection letter!! :)

Anyway, they said, "We wish you the best of luck with other publishers," which I'm assuming is their way of saying I am now free to submit to someone else.

However, I think I'm going to majorly comb over the first few paragraphs before I do...