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Impress an Editor (and How To Mark yourself as an Amateur)
by Lee Masterson
Okay, I know I'm smashing a popular misconception here but - Editors Really Are People!
Take a deep breath and recover for a moment - it was a shattering revelation, after all. But it is the truth. Editors go home to their families after work. They eat and work and play and do all the things you do, too. They just happen to work for a publishing house, or magazine, in which you would like to see your work published. They have likes and dislikes and they have a job to do.
Publishers are in the business of selling their products (be they books, magazines, e-books or whatever). They rely on their editors to make wise purchasing decisions that will ultimately create profits for their company. That doesn't make them bad guys - it makes them busy professionals.
And the last thing a busy professional person wants to see land on his or her desk is a vague note from a self-marked amateur that probably won't make his boss the profit he needs to make in order to pay his wages.
How to Impress an Editor - And How to Mark Yourself as An Amateur
Pro - Study the guidelines carefully, and follow those guidelines to the letter. An editor wants to see a submission that is clear and easy to read. Print your manuscript in a clear, concise serif font, like Times New Roman or Courier, preferably in a 12-point pitch. Use underlining to indicate where you would like italics. For electronic submissions, only submit what is specifically requested.
Amateur - Print out your story on brightly colored, strongly-scented paper in REALLY hard to read font. Format your email/attachment to read exactly like an already published book. That way it's SURE to stand out from every other submission in the slushpile and the editor will pick it up first. Who cares about the eye-strain the editor has to suffer? And who cares about the hours of re-formatting some poor copy-person must sit through - as long as your story is noticed, right?
Pro - Put yourself in an editor's shoes. Remember at all times that you are not the only person corresponding or submitting to that editor on that day.
Amateur - Demand that you be given an answer precisely 24 hours after you submit your work. Call or email three times a day until you do get an answer. Beg until he says yes, if he was stupid enough to reject it.
Pro - Take the time do some homework. Research the publications needs and wants. Read some back issues and familiarize yourself with the editorial style. Find out the name of the current editor, and address your query directly to that person. Learn what the editor likes and dislikes. Send exactly what that editor is looking for.
Amateur - Send your query letter/email to "Dear Editor". That will show that stupid editor that her publication and her are not so important! Perhaps even try "Dear Sir/Madam", for that extra personalized feeling. It's only an anonymous editor, after all.
Pro - Include a Title page and a table of contents (chapters) with your manuscript. Pack the entire story into your manuscript box with either a large paper clip to secure it together, or a large rubber band. Your Cover Letter goes on the top, with your professional business card clipped to it.
Amateur - Bind, glue, staple or tie your manuscript so that no pages escape. Pretty plastic folders with wire-binding are a good idea too - That way the editor won't mix the pages up with anyone else's story.
Pro - Keep your submission packet clean, simple and professional. Where possible, do not fold submissions. Email queries and submissions are no different to traditional postal submissions. Don't be overly friendly - this is a business transaction.
Amateur - Attach pretty stickers, bright labels, and photographs all over your submission packet to draw more attention. Paste Copyright symbols all over your work - we don't want some smarmy editor "stealing" it, now do we?
Pro - Make sure you have set your text to be double-spaced between lines - even between paragraphs - and leave only single spaces between sentences. Set your margins for approximately 1 1/2 inches on ALL sides of the print. Put your name, address and the title of the story in the top left corner of the FIRST page of the manuscript. Every page after this should have only your name and the book's title. Number your pages in the upper right corner.
Amateur - Format your story so that every line is even, and neatly justified down both sides of the page. Bind your book like a finished product. This approach should help the editor "see" your book as a finished product. It doesn't matter that the type-setter will hate you forever - he's not an editor.
Pro - Briefly describe your work. See if you can keep it to around twenty-five words. No more than a paragraph. Estimate the word count - lots of emphasis on estimate. An editor will not want to see "around 55,437 words" written on your query. Round the number off to the nearest hundred. Keep your letter down to one page in length. Editors are busy people. They will want to know what you are offering as quickly as possible.
Amateur - Tell the editor how much your grandma LOVED your story. Remind him again how good it is, because your best friend said it made her cry. Throw in another reminder of your brilliance and tell him you're the next Stephen King.
Pro - Double- then triple-check your work for spelling and grammar. Many editors won't read past the query letter if it already shows signs of bad usage of language.
Amateur - Run your story through the computer spell checker, then send it out to as many people as possible. Someone is bound to buy it then.
Pro - Realize that a rejection letter is not a personal thing. It is simply a statement from the editor that the publication you submitted to is either over-stocked, or may have recently purchased another piece of work similar to yours.
Amateur - Send the rejection letter back to the editor, covered in death-threats and big red scrawls saying "Die, Editor". Bribery is another great option. Or perhaps send a rude article about the self-serving nastiness of editors who don't have a clue. And that "Black-list" thing? Why, that's only a myth, isn't it? Editors don't ever talk with other editors, so no one will ever know you were the one who threatened to kidnap his favorite hamster unless he published your masterpiece "I Was a Teenaged Ax-Wielding Homicidal Space-Pirate in Wyoming".
Remember - A writer should be a professional business person, in the business of selling a product (your writing or your book) to a buyer (the publisher). Treat your words as though they are the foundation of your growing business enterprise, and you really will see the rewards.
© Copyright 2001 Lee Masterson. All rights reserved
note: Recently, after receiving
a very well written article from a subscriber, I was
unfortunately left to decline his offer to print it in
Fiction Factor. The article itself was of a high quality,
however did not meet the editorial needs of what we try
to offer here at Fiction Factor. Put simply - we felt we
already had enough information avaiable on that topic.
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