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Two articles that offer a point of view from the editor to the writer.
article sponsored by:
When the Editor is NOT the Enemy
by Mridu Khullar
They can be mean, unethical and downright unprofessional. But
not all editors fit that bill. In fact, most editors would
rather give you money that take it, make no changes than rewrite
whole pieces two hours before deadline, and accept every piece
of crap than start their mornings sending out rejection slips.
But step into an editor’s shoes, and you’ll know why that’s not
only hard, it’s just plain impossible!
Here are the most common complaints writers have, and why
editors aren’t always guilty of them.
Completely Changing your Work. An editor I frequently work with
was in distress. One of her regulars had just written to
complain about his perfectly brilliant beginning being chopped
off. “They sometimes don’t get our style,” she told me over
lunch. “We need more quotes, we put them in. We need a stronger
beginning; we change it. There’s nothing much I can do about it.
It’s the way we work.” But while this editor was very
forthcoming about her reasons, and gave the writer an
explanation, you’ll usually get no further correspondence. That
doesn’t mean that they don’t understand the anguish you go
through. But they’ve got word limits, voice and style
limitations and a dozen other factors to keep in mind. And they
simply don’t have the time to offer explanations to each writer.
Paying Less or not Paying at all. Most writers believe (or are
led to believe) that editors just don’t want to dish out the
cash. Sure, if they’re running a small business from home and
can hardly pay their bills, they probably won’t. But editors in
big offices don’t really care whether you earn $100 or $1,000.
After all, they’re not the ones paying from their pockets!
I was in a publisher-editor meeting the other day, and one
common concern was raised—why weren’t suppliers (including
freelancers) paid on time? A complaint unanimously raised by…
An important thing to remember is that while it may appear so to
us, editors aren’t really the ones calling the shots all the
time. That’s the publisher’s job. So hating the editor’s guts
won’t get you anywhere. While some editors may be creeps, most
of them are on your side! So, if you want more money, just ask
for it. Chances are the editor is the only one who can help you
Not Responding. They’d love to, you know. But there’s only so
much they can do. And while each e-mail you send will determine
where your next paycheck comes from, an editor will get paid
regardless of the number of queries rejected. Their job is
putting together quality content. No one’s going to promote them
for being nice to freelancers. It’s a simple matter of
priorities. And when the choice is between finishing up the
issue and answering yet another freelancer’s query, get real—the
editor will finish up and go home.
Killing Articles. We tossed a coin. The losing editor would have
to tell the freelance writer that his article had been killed.
That too after we asked him to send us a dozen writing samples,
come up with a dozen off-beat ideas, get a feel of our style and
send us a 600-word piece. We’d even negotiated the price. It
would have taken him at least a day’s work, if not more. We felt
cruel, but decided that the guy had potential for future
I lost the toss and sat down to draft the e-mail. I explained at
length how our policies had changed, told him that we’d be
willing to give more assignments and even added a touch of
humor. But the writer was obviously blinded. He thought of me as
the devil. And by doing so, he’d just lost a perfectly good
opportunity for more assignments.
Editors aren’t out to take advantage of freelancers or make
their lives miserable. In fact, if you get to know them a
little, you’ll find that they’re often a very friendly bunch.
Stop looking at your editor as the enemy, and you might just
find a friend.
About the author:
Mridu Khullar is the editor-in-chief of www.WritersCrossing.com,
a free online magazine for writers. Sign up for the free weekly
newsletter to get a complimentary e-book with 400+ paying
markets. Also check out her e-book, "Knock Their Socks Off! A
Freelance Writer's Guide to Query Letters That Sell," available
Why Manuscripts Are Rejected
Let me share
then some of the insights I've gained as a publisher-editor, so you might
take your rejections a little less personally and target your submissions
Submitting manuscripts to
publishers is a courageous act. It can also be a frustrating and perplexing one.
When you've spent months or years of your life writing a book that you take
great pride in, it's hard to understand why editors don't see the value in it
that you, your colleagues, and friends do.
Let me share then some of the insights I've gained as a publisher-editor, so
take your rejections a little less personally and target your
submissions more successfully.
Inappropriate subject matter for that publisher
If a publisher does not publish in your genre, you're barking up the wrong
tree. Don't submit your romance novel to a publisher of nonfiction, or your
self-help book to a publisher of textbooks. It's a waste of the editor's time
... and yours.
Carefully read the listings in Writer's Market. Browse the bookstore for
books similar to yours and the publishers that produce them. Then call and get
the name of the editor most appropriate for your book.
Manuscript sent without a query or agent
Editors are busy people who work in crowded offices. Be respectful of their
time and courteous enough to send a query or proposal first (after verifying
that they handle your subject), rather than forcing them to wade through stacks
of paper. Further, many editors, particularly those in larger publishing houses,
rely on agents to screen material for them and make appropriate submissions.
Submissions that arrive "unagented" are almost always returned unread. Others
usually end up at the bottom of the "slush pile" and wait several months to be
read—if they're read at all.
Weak book proposal
Writing a proposal can be as hard as writing the book itself. You must make a
good case for why your book should be published. Don't take it for granted that
the editor already knows the market and competition for your book. Do the
research. Consult one or more of the available books that provide guidance and
models for writing proposals. Here are two in particular that are worth
Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 Proposals that Sold and Why
By Jeff Herman and Deborah M. Adams
Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write
By Elizabeth Lyon
Good topic, poor writing
Even if you've chosen a marketable topic, if your proposal or manuscript
needs to be substantially rewritten, it's generally not worth an editor's time
and effort. Work on your writing skills or hire a ghostwriter. Get feedback and
work with a freelance editor to whip your manuscript in shape before you submit
it. A poorly written piece rarely gets a second chance.
While it's true that a hot topic will spawn a deluge of books, many
publishers, particularly small ones, are looking for books that are unique and
will have staying power. If you have an idea for a book in a popular category,
be sure your book offers a fresh approach.
Market too small While it's good to target a specific niche, if the
niche is too small, it's not worth a major publisher's time or money. The
chances of making a profit are too slim. If you can't broaden the scope of your
book, seek out a small press that caters to that niche or a regional audience,
or consider self-publishing.
Topic or approach too personal
I can't tell you how many times I've been approached by someone who knows
someone with a "really interesting life." While that may be true, interesting
lives don't sell books unless they have a hook on which to hang the publisher's
marketing and publicity efforts.
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Book not to an editor's taste
Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about this, but that doesn't mean
your book is undeserving of publication. If you feel it is well-written and
marketable, keep sending it out until you find the right match. Literary history
is full of stories of authors who submitted their proposals and manuscripts
dozens of times before they hit.
Too much advertising and marketing required
In the past, large publishers produced numerous titles, depending on their
bestsellers to"carry" their other, more "moderate" sellers. While that's still
true to some degree, large publishers today are cutting their lists down while
looking for books with a strong market and promotable authors. (Ditto for many
of the small presses.) What does that mean for you? That you should expect to
contribute to the marketing effort. Further, you should make your willingness to
help—and your promotional ideas—known in your proposal.
I hope you'll use these observations to your advantage and find yourself
signing a publishing contract in the near future!
©2001 Sharon Good
WriteDirections faculty member Sharon Good is a writer-editor and co-owner of
Excalibur Publishing Inc., a small press in New York City, as well as a
publishing consultant and personal coach for writers. She can be contacted at
Interested in learning more about this topic? Then check out these
Write Books That Sell!—Making Your Topic Marketable
Sell Your Book Before You Write It: Book Proposal ABCs
To register for these or any other teleclasses we offer, visit:
to view complete lineup of WriteDirections.com teleclasses and full course