So you've recently sent that prized manuscript to a publisher, either through email or through the mail. Now what are you supposed to do?
I share your frustration. There's nothing that quite compares to the anxiety you feel while sitting at your desk chair waiting for an answer. Checking your email every five minutes doesn't speed the process (I wish it did). So what are you supposed to do while you wait?
Well, one thing you shouldn't do is follow up too quickly. Even if the guidelines say to expect a response within one month. If it's been thirty-two days, let it slide for another week or so. Often unforeseeable things happen which push make responses a little late. Although no news does not always mean good news, by being too pushy you may close doors even if your manuscript would otherwise have been accepted. No one likes added stress. If it is far beyond the time frame specified (I'm talking at least a week and a half to two weeks), a polite note listing the title of your story and when you sent it in might be appropriate. You'll at least know if you can expect an answer soon, after all.
Another no-no is to bitch about it on the internet. Of course, there are places to report things like unusually slow response times or bad contracts—such as the forums at Absolute Write. But even this should be done cautiously and respectfully. You don't want someone googling your name and witnessing your bad behaviour towards other authors or publishers. That, too, is a deal-breaker for some.
But what does that leave you to do? Chew your nails. Well, every author has their own way of doing things. I know one that sends so many submissions out that she expects a response from someone almost every week, and uses that to take her mind off the waiting for the others. Another good use of your time would be to focus on writing your next great piece. After all, if the one you just sent out is accepted, you want to have your next book available to sub to them (or someone else), right?
Do you have any tricks you'd like to share with the rest of us during this strenuous period?