Question of the Week: How do editors feel about "status queries"? My theory is that an editor on the fence would be more likely to reject a mss from a pestering author than one who waited patiently....
Well, for starters, there's a difference between a professional status query and pestering an editor. We will deal with each one individually.
Editors do not mind professional status queries. In fact, they can be down right useful. I recently discovered a manuscript I've had since 2004. Yes, 2004!!! I have no idea what the poor author must think (and I actually know the person), but I can guarantee I would have addressed it before now if I'd gotten a status query. And I mean a professional status query, not a telephone call or a dorp-in or anything like that. A professional status query is a politely worded letter that tells the editor the title of the manuscript and the date sent with a request for a response. Be sure to include somewhere (at the top in you letterhead or in the footer) you're address and email address. If you have a personal relationship with your editor (in that at the very least you know the editor's name), or you've communicated with him/her by email before you may email your status query. However, be mindful of the editor's personal policy. Some do not repond to email. If you have any doubt at all about your editor's preference, send a letter.
Editors hate pestering authors that want a status update every week or so. Now, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but we all know people like that, and mailing off a manuscript can bring out neurotic worrying in even the stablest of individuals. However, never start panicing to soon. You should always anticipate that it will take at least 3 months for your manuscript to work thorugh the system. Even at the smallest house (like mine) there are still lots of hoops and paperwork that has to be done regardless of the manuscript's fate. Usually around the four or five month mark you should have heard back from the press. If you haven't you may begin to feel antsy. This is the time to write that professional status query. The only exception would be if the press has a published turn around time on their website or in their corporate literature. Then, wait the allotted time plus 1 to 2 months before sending a query. If you still haven't heard after this letter, wait a month and send a second politely worded status query reminding them that you still haven't heard from the editor. And I stress polite. No one likes rude notes at any time. They just make for a bad day. If you still haven't heard a month after that second letter, write a politely worded letter withdrawing your manuscript from their consideration. Life is to short to let your work languish as a press that can't be bothered to contact you. Immediately submit your work someplace else, and think twice before submitting to that press again.
And if you're curious, Blooming Tree's turnaround for manuscripts that we recieve now is about 6-12 weeks. We're still catching up on some, so we do have some older ones, however we've greatly streamlined our process. Children's Brains are Yummy Books gets manuscripts back in about 1-18 weeks depending on workloads and how often I go to the post office.