Here are the most common complaints writers have, and why editors aren’t always guilty of them.
Completely Changing Your Work
An editor I frequently work with was in distress. One of her regulars had just written to complain about his perfectly brilliant beginning being chopped off. “They sometimes don’t get our style,” she told me over lunch. “We need more quotes, we put them in. We need a stronger beginning; we change it. There’s nothing much I can do about it. It’s the way we work.” But while this editor was very forthcoming about her reasons, and gave the writer an explanation, you’ll usually get no further correspondence. That doesn’t mean that they don’t understand the anguish you go through. But they’ve got word limits, voice and style limitations, and a dozen other factors to keep in mind. And they simply don’t have the time to offer explanations to each writer.
Paying Less or Not Paying At All
Most writers believe (or are led to believe) that editors just don’t want to dish out the cash. Sure, if they’re running a small business from home and can hardly pay their bills, they probably won’t. But editors in big offices don’t really care whether you earn $100 or $1,000. After all, they’re not the ones paying from their pockets!
I was in a publisher-editor meeting the other day, and one common concern was raised– why weren’t suppliers (including freelancers) paid on time? A complaint unanimously raised by… editors!
An important thing to remember is that while it may appear so to us, editors aren’t really the ones calling the shots all the time. That’s the publisher’s job. So hating the editor’s guts won’t get you anywhere. While some editors may be creeps, most of them are on your side! So, if you want more money, just ask for it. Chances are the editor is the only one who can help you get it.
They’d love to, you know. But there’s only so much they can do. And while each e-mail you send will determine where your next paycheck comes from, an editor will get paid regardless of the number of queries rejected. Their job is putting together quality content. No one’s going to promote them for being nice to freelancers. It’s a simple matter of priorities. And when the choice is between finishing up the issue and answering yet another freelancer’s query, get real– the editor will finish up and go home.
We tossed a coin. The losing editor would have to tell the freelance writer that his article had been killed. That, too, after we asked him to send us a dozen writing samples, come up with a dozen off-beat ideas, get a feel of our style, and send us a 600-word piece. We’d even negotiated the price. It would have taken him at least a day’s work, if not more. We felt cruel, but decided that the guy had potential for future assignments.
I lost the toss and sat down to draft the e-mail. I explained at length how our policies had changed, told him that we’d be willing to give more assignments, and even added a touch of humor. But the writer was obviously blinded. He thought of me as the devil. And by doing so, he’d just lost a perfectly good opportunity for more assignments.
Editors aren’t out to take advantage of freelancers or make their lives miserable. In fact, if you get to know them a little, you’ll find that they’re often a very friendly bunch. Stop looking at your editor as the enemy, and you might just find a friend.
About The Author
Mridu Khullar is the Editor-in-Chief of www.WritersCrossing.com, a website for freelance writers. She is a full-time writer with hundreds of national and international credits, recently including Writer’s Digest, Byline, Freelance Market News, Wedding Dresses, Yahoo!, College Bound, Senior Connection and Woman This Month.
She is also a contributor to the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series and the author of “Knock Their Socks Off! A Freelance Writer’s Guide to Query Letters that Sell,” available at http://www.writerscrossing.