It’s not unusual for beginning writers to have questions about how to approach editors.
But the general attitude seems to be one of fear. Fear that if they email, or call, or otherwise approach an editor in anything but a mythical proper way they will be blacklisted from all of freelance writing forever.
Of course that’s not true.
Here’s what you need to know about editors:
Editors need writers. Without writers editors are out of a job. They are constantly on the lookout for writers who can meet their needs.
Every editor is looking for a different kind of writer. Some want books, others want articles.
Within those categories is an almost infinite variety. Books range from huge scientific tomes to small poetry chapbooks. Articles run from a few sentences in a woman’s magazine through expose’s to erudite commentary on an endless variety of topics. And each of those topics need writers.
Editors know their readers. When an editor accepts or rejects a manuscript of a query it’s either because it’s so poorly written it doesn’t seem worth fixing, or, more likely, it simply doesn’t match what the editor knows her readers want. Often that mismatch is obvious, like an article about dogs submitted to a horse magazine. (And yes, I can imagine such an article that would work.)
Equally often however, the editor can’t pinpoint exactly what’s wrong or missing or why the article just isn’t right.
Another common reason editors reject a piece of writing that new writers seem to have difficulty actually believing is that the publication already has something similar in the works. Among reputable editors there’s almost no deliberate idea theft.
If I submit an article on how to find the best place to take a healthy walk, there’s a very real chance someone else has proposed something that’s much the same.
Editors work to make you look good. Experienced writers welcome good editing, and there are lots of good editors out there.
Most of the changes an editor asks for or insist on are because he knows his audience.
Once and awhile the editor will be wrong, and most of them are happy to work with the author until they are both reasonably happy with the solution.
Editors are people, really.
All of which boils down to the fact that editors are people just like writers. They work hard, like successful writers. Editors want the best for their readers and depend on writers to deliver that.
Editors, like writers, also sometimes wake up on the wrong side of the day, or lose their tempers or become overwhelmed and don’t follow through.
Like writers, editors deserve respect, but writers can treat them like the peers they are. Editors really are on the side of writers.
What’s your best experience with an editor been?