Katie sent the following question:
What should an author do if they receive a full manuscript request from an editor as a result of a contest, but the editor works for a small publisher and the author wants to explore other options first (e.g. getting an agent, finding a bigger house, etc.)?
I would like to avoid a breach in etiquette here, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s received a request (through a contest, or maybe Twitter pitch party or something) that they aren’t necessarily enthusiastic about. How do authors let an editor down gently, so to speak, without burning any bridges for the future?
That is a great question. I’ll give two options and discuss the implications of each.
Send the full manuscript to the editor and then see what happens.
This option honors the request and delays any decision on a contract down the road.
Of course, if the editor turns right around and offers a contract (congratulations!) the decision wasn’t delayed very much and you are back to a variation of the original dilemma.
Ignore the request.
That is an option but that editor may not appreciate being ignored. The request was not made lightly. The editor is asking for more work!
Silence, in this case, is not a good idea. The door has been opened by the editor.
However, if you simply do not want to work with that publisher that’s okay. A gentle response like “Thank you for the request. I’m currently pursuing literary representation. If I am successful, your request for a full manuscript will be a part of that discussion.”
In the above scenario the author entered a contest. Let’s go back to the reason why the author entered a contest in the first place. Usually the author is hoping to win, of course, but also to have their work read by industry experts who serve as judges. Thus this situation is quite plausible.
Each writer has different aspirations and goals when it comes to publication. Smaller publishers do a wonderful service to authors in getting a book to the market. But often the sales numbers are modest by comparison to the numbers sold by larger publishers. Never forget that sales numbers become part of your sales history forever.
If I were forced to choose one of the options I would choose Option A. Honor the effort of that editor who volunteered to be a judge in that contest. Follow every lead and opportunity you get in your writing career. It is painless to follow a lead. It is the final contractual decision that should be made carefully.
Feel free to ask questions related to publishing and the writing life that we can answer here. Simply send an email with your question to email@example.com.