"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Monday, January 12, 2015

Are You in "Poor Form" With Editors?

Raise your hand if you've ever submitted work to an editor, and was displeased or downright shocked with the level of revisions prior to publication.
Perhaps your words were butchered more than cold cuts at your local deli counter.
Or maybe commentary was added to your piece, under your byline, that didn't feel "authentic" or reflective of your true "writer's voice."

I have.
And here's what I've discovered in the process over the years: it comes with the territory.
That's right.
In the words of a popular Xmas jingle, "You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, I'm telling you why."

How you respond to the editorial process and constructive criticism can make or break your career, and shape your reputation in the literary community.
And I should know: I've seen the best and the worst in these scenarios, as a former senior editor of a regional publication, and as someone who has encountered a multitude of different experiences on the freelancing front.

Accordingly, I'd like to share a few "insider's tips" to enhance your career and your creative efforts.

  • No matter how proficient you are with words, no editor wants to work with a writer who is difficult to deal with, unreliable, or demands "diva" status. If you're seeking "Red Carpet" status, you should try Hollywood.
  • Be realistic about your expectations. Editors edit. That's what they do. Learn not to personalize rejection or criticism. Apply what you can...then move on.
  • Editors are people too. The more you enable them to save time, money, or potential headaches, the greater the likelihood of earning "brownie points," and of working together again in the future.
With these things in mind, let's explore how to stay in editors' good graces, present a professional image, and optimize your career.

DOs and Don'ts

  • Remember that "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Start out with clean copy, a compelling headline, and a submission that adheres to the writers' guidelines of the targeted publication.
  • Recognize that your piece may be "altered" for reasons that have nothing to do with the merit of your work. For instance, a shortened piece may be the result of spacial or budgetary limitations.
  • Shift happens. Learn to go with the flow.
  • Unless the guidelines state otherwise, provide a current Bio and a photo that you'd like to be included with your submission. If not, busy editors might have to extract what's available on line, or cut and paste from your blog or website. This takes up more time, and also may result in something being presented that does not meet with your approval.
  • Have a good attitude! It goes a long way in the writer/editor relationship.

  • Never engage in word wars with editors-- either in writers' forums, your blog, or social media circles. You're better than that. Remember, the career you save may be your own! Don't get me wrong; most of us have come across an editor or two that has been in "poor form" too! If this happens, mark your records and make a deliberate decision to not work together again if possible.
  • Don't be a nuisance. It's okay to pose a question for clarity sake, but it's really not good to "question" an editor's decision in terms of his approach. They quite often know the "big picture" (i.e. advertisers, reading audience, etc.) better than you do. Also keep in mind that it isn't smart to constantly "follow up" for desired answers. The goal is to strive to be memorable in a good way.
  • Don't take big stands on small issues. It will minimize stress for all parties involved.
Although these guidelines are provided for editors and articles, many are applicable to guest posting and blogging as well. Heed them to improve your professional image and to increase your bottom line in 2015.

Your turn.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

 Image: Freedigitalphotos.net


  1. Thanks for your insight, Jen. "Don't take big stands on small issues" - I like this. We do need to carefully choose our battles and keep the big picture in mind..

  2. Your points are perfect for all writers. That last one is my favorite.

  3. Hi Lin,

    I appreciate your time and perspective.

  4. As an editor of a small press journal for new writers, your words were spot-on! Another simple rule: please follow guidelines and adhere to word count. I've had writers send in fiction way over word count and then argue, "I know your guidelines state 3,000 words, but I couldn't cut even one word or the story would be ruined" Whaaaa...? Great article, Jennifer!

  5. Oh, boy. I've been to this movie. And you're right, shift happens. LOL I've only gone toe to toe with one editor (and have since apologized) but I've learned not to get too picky especially when it impacts income!

  6. Sue,

    True. Right? Sometimes we have to take the high road! :-)