by Suzie Eller
I’ve worked with editors in both the magazine and book world. As a writer, you become part of a team as you submit and publish your writing. Your relationship with an editor is key as you become part of a team. You’ll also meet editors at conferences. You’ll have dinner with them. You’ll sit across from editors for your 15-minute one-on-one.
Over the past two decades, I’ve spoken to several editor friends and learned a few things that get in the way of a healthy editor/writer relationship.
In today’s Tuesday Tip, we’ll discuss six things editors wish writers wouldn’t do.
1. Misspell the editor’s name
This seems like common sense, but it happens more than you think. That query or proposal is your first impression. Double check the spelling, even if you think you know it.
2. Badger them
You’ve sent in a query. The Christian Writers Market Guide states a certain response time. At exactly midnight on the last day you send an email demanding to know why you haven’t received a response. If they don’t respond to that quickly, you call. When they don’t answer your call, you send another email and another. The tone changes from professional to urgent to angry.
Perhaps you are at a conference. You see an editor walk into the bathroom and it’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting on. You talk to them through the stall, sharing your pitch for your nonfiction book. (I’ve honestly seen this happen twice.)
So, what do you do?
If the market guide states six weeks for a response, give an additional week or ten days. The guidelines are an estimate and most editors are on the top of their game. When an additional one to two weeks go by, send a brief, professional email to follow up.
At a conference, give editors privacy in the bathroom or as they walk to their room. There are scheduled times to make your pitch, and also opportunities to meet with editors at meals.
3. Put them on a pedestal
Editors are just like you and me. They have ordinary lives. They love great writing. They love it when a book or article makes a difference. Meet them there – at the shared love of books and writing. Don’t put them on a pedestal, or let fear or intimidation keep you from connecting. Remember, editors love to champion their authors. Be professional but be you.
4. Send proposals or queries that don’t match their target audience
Most editors have a slush pile. They work under intense deadlines. Your first assignment as a writer is to study the market. A parenting magazine for moms of toddlers isn’t interested in an article on teaching your teen to drive. A publishing house that is exclusively nonfiction doesn’t want to bother with your Amish novel. Do your homework before sending out your query or proposal. Show the editor that you care enough to study their writing guidelines and submission policies.
5. Don’t use God as an excuse
I almost didn’t share this one, except it comes up more often than it should. For years I taught at writers’ conferences. It was disheartening to meet with a writer who confronted gentle critique with a refusal to consider any advice. It was especially disheartening when they said, “God told me to write it this way, so I can’t change it.”
Yes, God inspires. He leads. He places ideas in our heart. Yet it’s the wrong move to use God as an excuse to be inflexible, or to defend a manuscript that could be made stronger if you’d only listen.
6. Lasso the conversation
We end with one last “don’t.” Don’t lasso the conversation with an editor, especially when you are at a table with other writers excited to share. When she asks about your pitch, tell her about it. You’ve honed that pitch and it’s brief and hook-worthy. She’ll ask questions if she’s interested. Be prepared to answer them, but also leave room for others to talk to her.
An editor may love your idea and follow up with a more private meeting. If not, you’ve presented yourself as a professional and perhaps gained a new friend.
What’s the biggest takeaway you received from today’s Tuesday Tip? Share your thoughts on the COMPEL blog! The next time you meet with an editor, what are you going to challenge yourself to do differently?
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