I signed a book contract with a small house a few months back. At the time my editor raved about my manuscript and said she had numerous marketing ideas to make my book a best seller. This was four months ago. Since then I have not heard word one from her. I sent her an email about a month ago to ask what I should be working on before my final due date November 1, but again, crickets.
I do not have an agent, so my question is: is it normal for several months to go by before we have initial contact from an editor concerning revision? If not, what is my next step?
Since my clients with small presses have always been agented, I'm not sure if my experience will be applicable to you.
It's entirely normal for some months to go by before receiving an editorial letter, even in publishing companies with large staffs. The piece of information you're missing here is your publication date. If the pub date is this year (ie 2015) and you don't have an editorial letter, it's a problem that requires IMMEDIATE action. That means you email once a week until you hear something.
If pub date is 2016, you're not in trouble yet. If it's the second half of 2016, you're not in trouble at all.
But, I'm puzzled why your editor is the person you're talking to about marketing ideas. Does this small press not have a publicity or marketing person? If they don't, you should assume you're on your own, and not cause this press is a bunch of slackers. Most likely your editor has more than enough to do with just editing (ie she's behind on books ahead of yours in pub date, thus the silence.)
Of course if she raised your hopes and expectations by telling you she had "numerous ideas to make your book a best seller" she did you no favors. Most small presses can't print enough books to make anything a best seller. Maybe she meant digitally, although most of the books I see on those list look self-pubbed.
In other words, my guess here is she over promised, and is now going to under deliver.
That happens a LOT. It happens a lot with small presses (and inexperienced editors) who are just sure that traditional publishing is a bunch of mouth-breathing sluggards who, if they would just get off their asterisks and do these Very Simple, Very Obvious 738 things, Every Book Would Be A Best Seller!
Which means they just haven't been around enough to actually see how sales work long term.
And such lack of knowledge isn't a sign of moral failure, or bad character. It's just a sign of inexperience.
But, you're in bed with these guys now, and this is your book, and you want to know what to do. This is what you do while you're waiting for the editorial letter:
First, plan for NO assistance of any kind. Plan that you will be doing ALL the work. If you don't, well, so much the better, but better to plan for it and not have to do it than get caught flat-footed.
Second, start sending your manuscript out for blurbs right now. (If you don't know any well-known writers this can be a problem.)
Third, start meeting your local and regional booksellers. Visit their store with a one-sheet of information about your book. Mention you're a local author. Mention you're NOT self-published.
Fourth, build your mailing list. Plan to email every single person on that list INDIVIDUALLY with a personal email about your book.
This means no "Hi Gang, forgive the form letter" crap. If you want this book to sell, you'll invest time in making PERSONAL contact. That means "Dear Janet, I've been reading your blog for years and Query Shark really helped me hone my query. My debut novel is coming out X, and I wanted to give you a heads up. Pre-ordering really helps me out if you're so inclined. Thanks again, love and kisses, you."
See the difference? One gets me to the order site. The first one gets you to my trash bin. Yes, it takes MUCH longer to do these one by one. YES, it's worth it.
Small presses are great places to be but most of the people there have a lot more on their plate than they should and the polite squeaky wheel does get the grease.