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Writing From An Editor's Point of View
By Linda Davis-Kyle
In an interview with me, American romance novelist Fern Michaels once said, I'm happy to say I was never rejected. I absolutely find this amazing. I was at the right place at the right time and sold my first novel.
However, at one point in time I wrote a letter to, my then idol, Phyllis Whitney. I even had the audacity to send her a two-page sample of my work. She responded six months later and told me “to forget about writing and to keep doing whatever it was I was doing,” which was being a wife and a mother. I cried for days. I was too ashamed to tell anyone about her letter.
Two years later, Captive Passions went on the New York Times Bestseller List and stayed on for six or seven weeks. I didn't write Ms. Whitney. I did think about it, though. Most writers read the list. If she didn't see it, that's okay too.
Michaels sometimes attributes her success to “dumb luck.” Perhaps you have begun your writing by composing articles and short stories and plan to write longer works such as novels later.
If you write but have not been quite so lucky about getting published or are not receiving as many acceptances as you would wish, consider George Bernard Shaw’s words, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Then ask yourself what you can do even with your shorter pieces for magazines to improve your odds for acceptance? What can you do to “make it easy for editors to say ‘yes’ to your writing”?
Writing for Busy Editors
First, think about what it is like to be an editor. Editors have demanding deadlines and overflowing inboxes. They must plan ahead, anticipate trends, organize, and delegate work. They must juggle a vast assortment of tasks daily. They must deal with staff editors, graphic designers, writers, printers, advertisers, and subscribers. Often no two consecutive days are quite the same; so they must be flexible, yet hold to high standards of quality, while molding and timing projects to successful conclusions.
In addition, like you, editors write. Many editors write an editor’s note, arrange and conduct interviews, do research, and write time-consuming features for each issue. Some write short stories. Many write nonfiction books. Others write novels.
So, when you think about submitting a query or a completed article to your target editors, think about how you can save their time and make it easy for them to accept your queries and articles. Doing so, will increase the sales of your articles.
Polishing Your Typescript Properly before Submission
What are some ways to cooperate with editors? Finish your article well in advance of your editor’s important deadline for it, but do not just write it and dash it off. Write it. Set it aside. Come back to it. Read, revise, smooth, and polish it. Make any necessary changes. Then read and proof it again before finally submitting your very best work.
No doubt you have read such a recommendation before. Nevertheless, it is such good advice that it cannot be overemphasized.
Thinking Like an Editor
Think about how you would feel if you were an editor. You and your assistants have copy marked, prepared, and proofed 15 articles for publication in addition to allotting space for 10 book reviews. Yet, on the morning that you are prepared to submit or to upload the latest articles, you receive urgent phone calls, faxes, and e-mail messages from contributors with requests for changes. One contributor wants to delete an entire paragraph of information. Another wants to add a quote. Still another wants to change a title.
Thinking Like a Smart Writer
Believe it or not, some contributors do submit several changes. Remember, first impressions do count. If you want to work with an editor on a continuing basis, never ever send frivolous, time-consuming changes.
If you absolutely must make a modification or correction because of a circumstance that has resulted that was beyond your control, then do it promptly and succinctly. Excellent re-reading, polishing, and polishing again before submitting your article usually can make changes after submission completely unnecessary.
Setting Your "No After-Submission Changes" Policy with Your Interviewees
Sometimes interviewees, though, will call you with a request to make a change several days after you have submitted your article to an editor; so, always tell your interviewees in advance that you prefer not to upset your editor with post-submission changes. Give your interviewees a cut-off date preceding your final submission deadline.
You can prevent a lot of grief by honoring your editor’s needs and making it crystal clear to your interviewees that you absolutely cannot send after-submission changes. The interviewees know that it is in their best interest to give reliable, quotable information during their interview. This way everyone wins. When your interviewees and your editors are happy, your life will be more pleasant. Planning ahead to prevent bad situations will save you time and protect your earnings.
Needless to say, however, if either a gross inexplicable error or some interviewee comment—that because of changes in the world at large—could create unpleasant repercussions for the target publication needs to be corrected, then you must submit a correction to your editor or make that correction yourself if you have online access. An editor actually can be pleased in such a case, because fine editors want their publications to be stellar. Furthermore, editors never want complaints from their advertisers. After all, keep in mind that, as a writer, your articles are mere fillers between ads.
Deleting Your Written Words, If Need Be
Even though interviewees are important to you and deserve respect, they, too, must respect you and not create trouble for you with your editor. After all, think of it this rather harsh way—if a particular interviewee may cause your editor to lose trust in you, then you must determine whom you would rather please—the editor or the interviewee.
The decision is simple. If you have quoted numerous experts in your article, then deleting one troublemaker may keep your relationship with your editor strong. Remember, you thoughtfully informed your interviewees; so, it is up to them to recognize the possibility of being deleted if they speak thoughtlessly or try to make ridiculous modifications.
Making Your Writing Strong with a Reliable Interviewee
On the other hand, if the article centers on the life, the work, or the philosophy of a lone targeted interviewee, then you have a much bigger problem, which will necessitate your excellence not only in writing your article but also in communicating tactfully with your target person.
To prevent any miscommunication, then, to reiterate here, just graciously define your time table for any modifications at the outset of your interview, and explain that it is imperative that you, as the writer, must stick to the editor's schedule. Most interviewees want to see their words in print or online; so, dealing preemptively and thoughtfully works best and elicits amazing cooperation.
Winning Your Editor’s Heart with Solid Writing ~ No Fluff
Consider what it must be like to be an editor of multiple publications.
Such an example is Anne Tullis, who, sometime ago, for about four years, served as the Editor of Golden Falcon, Gulf Air’s monthly inflight magazine, Bahrain Gateway, the official bi-monthly magazine of Bahrain International, Oryx, Qatar Air’s bi-monthly inflight magazine, and Oryx Entertainment, another Qatar Air bi-monthly inflight magazine, all under the Publishing Division of Promoseven Holdings of Bahrain.
Nevertheless, within only a couple of days of requesting her participation in my book, The Writer’s Friend: Behind the Scenes with Editors, I received her gracious reply, “I am sorry to have taken so long to get back to you, but life has been far too hectic here. . . .”
Indeed, editors lead busy lives. So, the moral to this article is to be gracious to your editors so that they will love your writing, and always remember that they have lives, too. ~ ldk
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Linda Davis-Kyle, the primary author of The Writer's Friend and Fun Foods for Kids & Grownups, also is the author of Change Your Life with Martial Arts. Her general interest and educational articles have been published in a dozen countries on five continents. Davis-Kyle also edits professionally, gives parenting seminars on safety and nutrition, and teaches writing composition to guide aspiring writers of all ages to make their dreams to write and to be published come true.
"Making It Easy for Editors to Say 'Yes'" first appeared in print in Byline. Kyle, Linda Davis. "How to Impress an Editor." Byline Magazine, June 2001, pp. 14-15 (USA) First printing. Modified and Reprinted here by the author. Copyright © 2001-2013, Linda Davis Kyle. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be reproduced in any fashion without explicit written permission from WritingNow.com.