Working with Editors

Lately I’ve been thinking about my long term experience with editors, which I thought I’d share here.

No editor is the same –  which goes without saying. Every editor has their pet peeves, their favourite topics, their own way of interacting with writers, etc.

It starts with the interaction with editors to whom you submit pitches. I’ve had editors help me rework a pitch so that it fits their outlet, but I’ve also had editors who just never respond and you have to take that as a ‘no’ to whatever you pitched them. My favourite are the enthusiastic editors who are keen to see what you’ve written and to share it with their audience. I had one editor accept my pitch but she couldn’t pay much – she said it was such a good pitch that I should shop it around to somewhere where I’d get more money, and to send her a link when it was published. How many editors would say that??

Then there’s working with an editor on an accepted piece, to polish it for publication.

Some of the not-so-great editors have:  

  • Cancelled my piece without even reading it because they decided they didn’t want it after all (in this case I think they wanted literary criticism rather than the book review I told them I would deliver).
  • Tried to rewrite almost all of my text even though I knew it was pretty good the way it was, and their changes were more a personal style thing than an issue with my writing – and they also introduced errors as they rewrote (this happened a few years ago and luckily not since then).
  • Ghosted me entirely. For example, I have an editor who isn’t responding to email. We finished final edits in September (after almost 5 months of pushing to get a response), but the piece still hasn’t been published and the editor isn’t responding to my messages.
  • Gone to radio silence when you ask why a certain approach is required. For example, one of my editors said they needed to read a copy of the book I was reviewing in order to better edit my review. But at the same time I’ve had several reviews published for which the editor hadn’t read the book. So, genuinely confused – and concerned about the quality of my review – I asked why they needed a copy of the book. I haven’t heard back from them.

Some of my best editors have:

  • Been open to discussion about the content and editing of a piece. They see working on a piece as a collaborative process, one where you can answer their questions/comments in the affirmative or the negative – as long as you have a good reason for writing something a certain way, these editors are fine with it.  
  • Been keen to chat on the phone. This is rare with editors as they don’t want to be inundated with phone calls from freelancers, but I have one editor who has actually encouraged phone communication to make sure things are absolutely clear.
  • Provided both positive and negative comments. There’s nothing like a little high five in the middle of a bunch of “please fix this” notes to help you feel like the work is worthwhile.
  • Promoted my work on social media – personally, rather than just via their publication.

Of course editors are just as busy as writers, sometimes more so (at least in my case, since I only do one piece a month at the most). There are always reasons for things like radio silence or terse comments that have to be addressed within a day. Just sometimes it’s nice to let the good editors know they’re doing a great job and that you appreciate working with them – and it goes the same in the other direction, from editor to writer, as well.

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