In the summer of 2011, I sent out several submissions for a story called "The Way She Makes Me Feel." It's a romance story told from the male's perspective.
I sent it to one place that sounded very promising on August 11, 2011 (I know because I have the email that says I sent it then). I never heard anything, sent my follow up email, still never heard anything.
In reality, it's not that uncommon to not hear something from a publisher. Some places tell you that no reply is the same as a no. I assumed that was what happened with this place. I never got an email that said they received my story, so it could have gotten lost in cyberspace. When I sent my follow up email, nothing. Soooo, in October, I signed a contract with my publisher for the story.
On January 8, 2012, I received an acceptance from that publisher. At first, I was really excited. Woo hoo! An acceptance! Then, I remembered I'd already signed a contract. Crap! Did I forget to send a withdrawal email? Of course, I cleaned out my emails the week before, so I didn't have any records of sending stuff to the publisher.
I felt horrible! Publishers always tell you there's nothing more irritating/frustrating than accepting a story only to find out it's no longer available. I went to the site to see what their policy was on simultaneous submissions. Nothing. I looked to see if it gave a time frame for when they would reply. Nothing.
I know the publishing world can take a long time, but 5 months? Don't you think it would have been courteous to shoot out an email and say, "Hey, we have your story and it's going to take us some time to get to it. Please be patient"? Or maybe have an automatic response that lets the author know you got the submission.
I can't remember if I sent an email that withdrew my submission, and the publisher said she never got one. The courteous thing to do is to send one out, and I normally do. However, if they never responded to any of my other emails, what would make me think they'd respond to that one?
I still feel slightly bad that the situation turned out that way, but I don't think I'm totally to blame. There needs to be mutual professionalism on both sides. And I don't think the publisher is angry, but it's hard to tell through email.
It got me to thinking: when is a reasonable amount of time for a publisher to get back to you? Some people say 6 weeks, some say 3 months. Also, it varies if you're sending a novel or short. I tried to play it safe, and it was over 2 months before I signed the contract. I guess I'll have to be more diligent in the future.