Editors’ Wish List When Working with Nonfiction Writers

Editors’ Wish List When Working with Nonfiction Writers

28 Dec 2017 Publishing

What follows is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many novice writers skip too many of the suggestions on this list. You can get a leg up on the competition by following these to a T. And if you’re primarily a fiction writer, you’ll find much of this advice applies to short stories too. – Jerry J.

Guest blog by Karla Dial and Diane McDougall

1. When pitching for the first time, study the publication to make sure your idea fits their mission.

2. Find and follow their writers’ guidelines (most will be online).

3. If your pitch is not accepted, thank the editor for considering it.

Be known as someone enjoyable to work with.

4. If your pitch is accepted, make sure you’re clear on the deadline and word count.

Be prepared for rewriting requests.

5. Study the publication again to see how stories are formatted.

  • Do they all have titles?
  • Decks and/or bylines?
  • Do they break up the copy with subheads?
  • Do they include footnotes or taglines for the author at the end?

Whatever you see, DO THAT. The easier you make an editor’s job, the more likely he or she will keep hiring you.

6. Remember, if you submit your piece after close of business on the day of the deadline, you’ve missed the deadline.

If you think you’ll need more time, let the editor know as early in the process as possible. Nobody wants to scramble to fill a hole at the last minute.

7. If an editor sends back edited copy for more information or revisions, work with the edited copy, not your original file.

Don’t make the editor do the same work twice.

8. Don’t be a diva.

Learn to graciously defend your work, but also know when to let things go.

There’s room for discussion, but in the end, the editor is on your side, while also being responsible for preserving missional integrity as well as the publication’s standards.

Compiled by Karla Dial, editor of Citizen magazine, with input from Diane McDougall, editorial director for Journey Group. Adapted with permission from EPA Liaison, Winter 2017-2018.


5 thoughts on “Editors’ Wish List When Working with Nonfiction Writers

  1. Hi Jerry, Always follow instructions and guidelines. Do your homework & read them, well.

  2. To my delight, I’ve had several small articles published recently. The editor sent slightly revised copy to me for approval before publication. In one case, I felt an area of my piece was rather weakened with the changes, but I dared not “stir the waters” too much for fear of being rejected after all. I’m glad to know that if I get the gumption, I can give and take with the editor.

  3. I needed this! I especially appreciated #3. I never considered thanking an editor for considering my work. In my mind they’re sitting in some soaring glass Jetson-style pedestal with never a need to hear again from someone they’ve rejected. I keep hearing “Be persistent,” even from editors who don’t need articles I’ve pitched, but summoning the guts to send a different article to an editor who’s said no is still beyond me. But this helps, so thanks. :)

  4. This is where I am right now. I post excerpts of my work on Facebook. Not just poetry, but excerpts from short stories and even one from my novel. I searched today for publishers for my picture books; as well as the novel. My editor has the re-written novel right now. And I am waiting for her to give me the news, good, bad or ugly. I appreciate the advice here. Some, I am familiar with. Some of it, new and interesting. I am guilty of editing to the nines, and that is where I have my fun. I have more trouble getting the computer to send good copy. Copy not scattered haphazardly across the page. (A couple of my assignments to schools have gone out that way.) Knowledge is a heavy thing. It takes time to assimilate it all, to compose it in everything written. And then there’s still the territory of writing, not mapped and not tacked upon the wall, so to speak. It’s a challenge to adhere to what’s given, yielded from information bolting out of the wide, blue yonder, lighting up a slender landscape; visible and defined, contrasted against the vast shadows of what I’ve yet to learn. Aye, there’s the rub. lol

  5. I learned early that the editors I was blessed with, knew what they were doing. Their editing made me look better, and I learned so much!

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