Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What do editors want, anyway?

Jack Watson Series, Vol. 1

Tabitha Solo thought nothing of dropping the name of Scot Cunningham, the object of her high school crush who recently died in a car crash, as the inspiration for her first hit song, “Dreamer,” during a TV interview. But now, the FBI is asking about him, people are following her, and Carren Bixby--Tabitha’s manager and Scot’s one-time girlfriend--is behaving suspiciously. When Tabitha finds a listening device in her bedroom, she runs away and hires private detective Jack Watson.

Jack met Tabitha once before and suddenly believed in love at first sight, but he was recovering from a disastrous marriage then and had yet to fight off the commanding influence of his ex-wife. When Tabitha arrives in his office looking for help, he is both thrilled and disappointed because his professional ethics forbid him from becoming personally involved.

Question from the e-mail:  As you know, I market small pieces to magazines mostly. Every editor wants something different and complains of something else! What do they want, anyway???

Answer: As you pointed out, each editor wants something different, and his requirements are designed to lighten his own workload.

 Speaking as a sometime editor, here’s MY 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. Three thousand words means “Three thousand Words, or LESS”. It doesn’t mean 3001 words. Sending in assignments that are too long makes a great deal of work for your editor.

    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.

Please notice that artistry is last on the list. No editor needs an author who calls to complain about what an editor changed and why.

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