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When to Ignore Editors' Advice
by Jennifer Brown Banks
As writers, we rely on the expertise of editors to polish our prose, identify our creative short comings and make our work more marketable. And rightly so, many of them have traveled in our footsteps as freelancers in a former life, and know valuable things that we have yet to discover.
But be forewarned. This experience in and of itself does not always mean that their “words of wisdom” should be treated as gospel. Just like other “expert advice,” you need to know what to apply and what to disregard. It can make or break future success and potential earnings.
Here's why. Though this may seem somewhat sacrilegious in nature, I can attest that editors are human. No matter how wonderful they are, they have errors in judgment and bad days just like the rest of us. I should know, as former senior editor of a regional publication.
Here's further proof.
Consider all the times that current best-selling authors have had their works rejected by editors and publishers before reaching mega success! Think J.K. Rowling and Mark Hansen.
Truth is, if I had listened to all the advice that I've received from editors regarding my work over the years, the rejections alone would have caused me to doubt my ability and my decision to pursue this career path, causing me to pack up my tent a long time ago!
Here's the good news: experience is a great teacher.
In more than a decade of writing, with over 500 published and paid pieces, here are a few rejection gems I've discovered, and you will too.
- Writing is subjective—As they say, “One man's trash is another man's treasure.” Many of my articles that have been previously rejected by one editor, have been successfully placed and purchased by subsequent editors, (unaltered). They have even gone on to become readers' favorites, earning the designation of “most popular” in writing website databases. Know that “no” doesn't always mean no. Get a second opinion.
- Rejection is not always solely based upon the quality of your work—Sometimes we stack the odds against us by dishonoring editors' pet peeves. For example, one editor with whom I work hates any references to negativity or the gloomy state of the current economy. Another is agitated by my usage of exclamation points, while another frowns upon fragments. Be sure to note and remember the idiosyncrasies and stylistic preferences of your editors to ensure greater publishing success.
- Timing sometimes plays a role in rejections—Many years ago I wrote a piece on chivalry as it relates to courting practices. I was proud as a peacock at what I had created, when I submitted it to a lifestyle publication for singles. Having dealt with this particular editor for many years as one of her contributing writers, I was sure this piece was a shoo-in! A few weeks later, she rejected it without any explanation. I scratched my head and shelved the piece for a while. A few months later, convinced that my work was worthy of publication, I sent it back to this editor. Again, she rejected it, with no recommendations for improvement. I waited again and sent it a third time. Three is indeed a charm. She accepted it and paid me a hundred bucks for my efforts. Today, we still laugh at the fact that it took awhile for her to see this gem for its worth.
The path to publishing has many bumps and turns, but keeping these three creative caveats in mind will help you enjoy greater profits and fewer “red lights” as you navigate the path.
© Copyright 2009, Jennifer Brown Banks
Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com
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