The Value of the Editor

The editor is an important member of any publication. Among other things, the editor acts as a gatekeeper, in addition to editing your articles. Some writers hate editors because they are afraid that if the editor changes their copy, he/she will destroy the integrity of their work.

The reality is a different story. The editor is your best friend. He/she can teach you things about your writing that you might not learn any other way. If you are fortunate, you might find an editor who will quickly discover what your strengths are as a writer and will help you refine your craft.

This was my experience when I was writing technical articles for a magazine called: The Computer Paper. There, the editor took me under his wing and informed me that my greatest strength was as a “how-to writer” and helped steer me in that direction.

When you write articles, make sure you give them more than they asked for.  If the magazine asks for a word count of 1,000, I recommend adding 10-20% more. This is my standard policy. They can always edit the article, if necessary. When you send in an article, thank the editor for the writing opportunity.

If they have any suggestions or corrections, ask them to let you know. This shows you as a professional and, more importantly, that you are open to course corrections, if necessary. When writing for a new publication, you might have to go back and forth on your first few articles until you get a feeling for their style.

Some writers say that you should never call an editor. I disagree. Your editor is a human being like you. Be aware that the editor will truly appreciate it if you can make his/her life easier. If you feel you have a great idea, call the editor. It can be very effective in winning assignments. Note: Do not make the mistake of putting the editor on a pedestal. That puts you in a subservient position which is unwise.

When submitting query letters, here are several things to observe: If you are starting from square one as a writer and you do not have any articles to your credit, I recommend that you include a skills-based résumé. If you have writing samples, I recommend you send 2-3 in place of a résumé and place them in your document after writing the query letter. If you have some articles that match the topic or your query, that would be even better. Testimonials (aka client feedback) are highly recommended.

These are very powerful, especially if you can provide full names, cities and/or Web Site and email addresses. Use two or three of those with your query letter.

Important: Never send in a query with attachments. Many magazines have filters in place to strip these out since they might contain a virus. If you send in submissions with attachments, your query could be automatically filtered and/or deleted. The editor you sent your query to is unlikely to open your message for fear of unleashing a virus within their system. Instead, include everything you want to send within the body of your email message.

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  1. Diiarts says

    “When you write articles, make sure you give them more than they asked for. If the magazine asks for a word count of 1,000, I recommend adding 10-20% more. This is my standard policy. They can always edit the article, if necessary.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. My experience as both a writer and an editor is the direct opposite. If a print publication (it may be different online) asks for 1,000 words, it’s because they have space for 1,000 words – not 1,200. Send them 1,200, and you are giving them unnecessary additional editorial work over and above what they would normally have to do. My experience has always been that editors love the writer who can produce an exact word count. They’re on a deadline and “They can always edit the article, if necessary” shows a complete disregard of this.

    There is also a risk that you will come across as (a) undisciplined and can’t write to a word count, or worse still (b) arrogant enough to think that whatever you have to say over-rides the publication’s legitimate editorial constraints.

    As an editor, if I asked for a maximum word count and got 20% over, I’d be likely to send it back, and I’d be cautious about asking the writer for anything in the future.

  2. Crystal Jigsaw says

    I am currently working with a very professional editor on my ms and she is invaluable. Her comments and suggestions to my work are improving the plot, improving the characters and improving the book in general. She’s worth her weight in gold, and she’s a lovely person too!

    CJ xx