(I said I'd be blogging the book publication process, so here goes. Abundant minutiae ahead.)
Three weeks ago, I sent a book proposal and a couple of sample chapters to three university presses. They were three of my top four choices, which I consider basically equally desirable; I'd decided to hold the fourth in reserve.
To my surprise, I heard back from two of them within days: first, a nice, personalized rejection email from one press (I used to work in academic publishing, and I wrote a lot of rejection letters, so I have a pretty good sense of how to read their relative degrees of niceness), and an expression of interest from the second: they'd like to see the full manuscript when it's ready.
I still haven't heard from the third publisher, which was originally my favorite of the three. This may mean that they've sent a rejection letter by post to my campus address, or it may simply mean that they've got a bit of a backlog.
In any case, I'm not inclined to wait around to hear back from them; I've told the press that expressed interest that I'll be sending the manuscript within the next few weeks, and I've exchanged some pleasant, chatty emails with the head literature editor. I'm impressed by their efficiency and friendliness, and they publish top-notch books. I'd be thrilled to have them publish me.
But at the same time, I'm not assuming they'll publish me: the reviewers could hate it, and I might have to send the thing out to multiple additional presses. I figure I'll get useful feedback one way or the other, though, and that any forward momentum is good, even if the process winds up being a long one.