I'm really confused about what to do next. I submitted my book to several agents, but didn't get any offer. So I sent it to a couple of publishers. One of these - a big publisher - wrote back to say they had been looking for a project like this and were very interested and would get back to me with an answer soon. That was three months ago. But I recently got an offer from another publisher (a small press). They gave me a deadline to decide by. So I let the big publisher know. They wrote back to say they were still interested and would get back to me by the deadline. The deadline is in a few days and according to twitter (we follow each other, so not stalking), the editor I was in communication with at the big publisher has just gone on a two-week vacation and wrote they'd finished up all their work before they left. So I have no idea what to do now. Am I to assume the bigger publisher is no longer interested or forgot about my book? (yes) Or that they will email from vacation to offer on it (unlikely)?(no) If I turn down the small press, will the bigger publisher think I lied about the offer? (no) If I accept the small publisher offer, what do I do if the bigger publisher comes back late and says they're interested? (nothing) Can I email the editor who is on vacation about the deadline and see if they're still interested or will this look desperate? (sure/don't worry about how things look)
I'm not sure if I want the offer from the small publisher, as would rather an offer from the bigger one. But I'm willing to accept the small press if nothing else comes up. I'm just really confused about what to do with the big publisher. If they weren't replying to me, I would assume they were no longer interested and move on, but every email they've sent me has said they ARE interested. But now with this vacation news and still no answer, I don't know what to think. It's like they keep saying they're interested but their actions indicate they're not? Why wouldn't they just say they're not interested? I just think it's really weird and I don't have an agent to chase them up so I'm on my own with this. What do you think I should do? Forgot about them and move on or try one last email attempt to seek clarification? They are a great publisher and would love an offer from them but not sure what more I can do now. If they forgot the deadline, then what else can I do?
Let's cut through all the dithering. You have an offer from a publisher. You have to say yes or no by a certain date.
That's all you know.
I have no idea what's going on behind the scenes at the other publisher. Neither do you. You've let them know you have an offer. That's all you can do.
You can certainly email the larger publisher to say you've taken the offer from the smaller publisher. Or if you elect to decline that offer, you can email them with that information as well.
My experience is that when an editor wants a project s/he takes steps to acquire it. That hasn't happened here.
I also note that you said you submitted your book to "several agents." Several means three. If you mean a few more, it still sounds like fewer than ten.
Your first mistake was giving up on securing an agent. You can actually resume your agent search now, and see if this book which garnered interest from two publishers will resonate with someone.
Of course, you'll have to pass on the small publisher first because you can't keep them waiting, but it sounds like you want to do that anyway.
Make a list of what you know for sure.
Leave out speculation and supposition.
Act (or don't act) only on that information.