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Ten Ways to Please Your Editor
by Gretchen Craig

Unfortunately, writing scintillating, precise, fascinating prose is not enough in our business. You have to know how to reach an audience, and that means you have to know how to please an editor. Magazines, journals, book publishers – they all have editors wading through piles of submissions. Most of the manuscripts are not nearly as good as yours; that is a safe assumption. However, those lesser writers may have an edge over you if you don’t know how to approach the gatekeepers. Below is a list of Must-Dos if you want an editor to first, actually read your manuscript all the way through, and second, buy it!

1. The most basic requirement: Follow directions. Editors have stacks of submissions, and tossing one aside for not heeding the guidelines is an easy way for them to whittle down the pile. Most publishers post submission guidelines on their website. This will include margins, word count, font style and size, and headings and page numbering. If the publisher wants no more than a ten page submission, don’t send twenty. If you’re submitting non-fiction, be sure to use the recommended citation format for your sources. Pass the first test: follow directions.

2. Punctuation matters. Spelling matters. You can’t expect a word-person like an editor to see how brilliant your material is if there are punctuation and spelling errors. She will be too annoyed to register what a genius you are. Punctuation and spelling are basic – master those (or find someone who has) before you submit.

3. Editors are famously overworked and harried. They have deadlines. They don’t really care that you may also be overworked and harried. Meet your deadlines. If your professionalism makes the editor’s life easier, she will remember and send you more work!

4. Your work is more important to you than it is to your editor. She has lots of writers to pick and choose from. Don’t nag. Don’t whine. Don’t berate. If the editor has not given you enough attention, has not proclaimed your work the greatest thing since Mark Twain walked the earth, keep your hurt feelings to yourself. She doesn’t need you nearly as much as you need her. Don’t tick her off by being a pain in the neck.

5. Check your facts. Nothing will blacken your name faster than if you submit something factually incorrect. And if the error is not discovered until after it’s published, the editor is embarrassed, probably angry, and no doubt unwilling to look at anything of yours ever again.

6. Know the market. You wouldn’t send an article on crochet to Field and Stream. Don’t send your piece out until you have researched your targeted publication. Who is their audience? What is the usual length of their articles or stories? What is the over all tone of the magazine – sober or humorous or what? Have they just last month published a story on the same topic as yours? If so, you’ll want to hold off or look for another publication. Is your piece seasonal or topical? Find out how far in advance they need an article on Christmas. It might be they’d want it turned in by July!

7. Don’t be hard-headed about some editorial changes in your writing. Publishers routinely change names and places in fiction. Even in non-fiction writing, an editor might delete or move a line or two. If it’s not significant, go with it.

8. On the other hand, you don’t have to accept editorial suggestions. It’s your baby. Your task will be to weigh losing a publishing opportunity against your desire to protect your vision and your integrity. You only need to compromise on the small stuff. If you think the editor just doesn’t “get” it, move on.

9. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (To which every bright four year old responds, “Who wants to catch flies?”) Even if you and the editor cannot reach an agreement, Be Nice. There will be other occasions you may work together, and being snippy or arrogant or insulting will not only make you unpopular at that institution, word will get around that you were a butt-head. It’s a small world. People talk.

10. You may be the vessel of wonderful imaginings, but you are also a craftsman. If your piece is not the very best work you can do, don’t send it. Check your sentences for variety and sparkle. After all, you have competition, and you have a reputation to make or to keep. Nobody makes fast money as a writer. Take the time to revise, check facts, revise, and then revise.

If you follow all these steps, you will have earned your future editor’s attention. She will be able to devote herself to the content of your manuscript instead of shaking her head at the Things These Writers Don’t Know. You’ve put your best into your work, the ideas are deep and meaningful, the writing crisp, and the editor will admire you and your professionalism. You’re on your way!

© Copyright 2006, Gretchen Craig

Gretchen Craig is the award-winning author of historical novels. Always and Forever and Ever My Love areset among the Cajuns and Creoles of Old Louisiana, and are published by Kensington Zebra. Joining the digital revolution, Gretchen has self-published her latest writings as ebooks . The Color of the Rose isa collection of three short stories. Crimson Sky isa novel of the clash between Conquistadors and Native Americans in what is now New Mexico. Both are available for the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook. Read reviews and first chapters at www.gretchencraig.com.

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