Thursday, August 18, 2011

What do editors want? -- writing tip

E-mail question: This publisher's guidelines say one thing, the next publisher's -- another. Agents I have queried come up with a third list of requirements to be met before anyone will read my manuscript. WHAT do editors WANT, anyway? Your student from the past, Alicia.

Answer: Alicia, they want to save time, so they can get more work done. People who send manuscripts that take a lot of extra time and trouble to read or produce almost always get rejected. Each one has a long list of demands, designed to save time at that, particular publishing house and it certainly varies from house to house.

Speaking as a sometime editor, here’s MY OWN list in order of importance:

1. Good clean mistake-free copy that arrives well before deadline.

2. Coherent and organized prose that is never confusing to the reader.

3. Authors who will listen to what the editor is saying about the assignment and will produce the desired results the editor has asked for without going off on a tangent of their own.

4. Authors who will pay attention to length requirements. Less than 90,000 words, means 90,000 words or LESS. It doesn’t mean 90,001 words. Sending in assignments that are too long makes a great deal of extra work for your editor. Problems with manuscripts that are shorter than desired, are easily dealt with.

5. Stories or information that readers will enjoy, or that will benefit them in some way.

6. Authors who don’t take unnecessary time. Who ask just enough questions to know what’s wanted then go away and produce it without talking about their grandchildren, dogs or in-growing toenails.

7. Authors who don’t telephone or send twenty e-mails a day wanting to know when their book, or story, or article, will be finished and/or published.

8. Authors who listen to suggestions and produce results without whining.

9. Clear, concise, informative prose without repetition or padding.

10. Artistry with words.

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