If you are submitting to an agent, that turn around time can be less than a month in most cases. I know at Greyhaus, I do state I will try not to go beyond 3 months, but honestly, I feel guilty if I am going over that 30 day mark. But why so long on a single query letter?
First of all, and this goes for the editors as well, our first priority is to our current clients. Their works in progress, their revision notes, their contracts and their proposals take precedence. For the most part, we go through those in the order received, but even then, due to deadlines and what not, we might bump other projects ahead of others.
When we do get to the submissions, we all do things differently. My approach is pretty basic. I work through all of the new submissions first and get those queries out. I try to wait until I have a stack of submissions since I am inputting all of the information into my databases. For me, it is much easier to get on a roll and start putting all of it in at one time. For each submission, it takes a minute or two to read through the material, consider potential locations and the marketability of the project.
As for requested material, I forward all of that information over to my digital reader and then start working through those. I take notes on the project and after I have I have read through those projects, I sit down at the computer and answer all of the projects at the same time. Again, the reason is the same as the newer submissions. These letters take longer to write because I am trying to get in a few reasons as to why I might have passed on the project.
Of course if we went from a query, to a partial and then to a full manuscript, you can see how the time adds up.
As for editors, they are going to be doing all of their reading on their free time, after hours. The work they do in the office will be with all of their current authors. But for these people, they have a few more channels and considerations:
- The odds are they are getting multiple reads on the projects. These can come from free-lance readers or even other editors.
- If they like projects they will likely take the material to their weekly editorial meetings and discuss it there.
- They have to consider if marketing things the project is going to work once the put the "numbers" into the computer.
- They might even send you revision notes and ask to see it again. Add in that time as well.
I guess I should also add in the fact that editors and agents do have a life OUTSIDE of publishing. We all went through the holidays just like you did. We all get sick. We all have kids who pull us in different directions. And yes, we do clean house and do the laundry.
The point is, things do take time. This is not a bad thing. We are all trying to make sure things get done right. Just don't panic if things take longer than you had expected.