The Truth About Editors

Publisher Connor Sansby explains what editors expect from submissions, and what writers should expect from editors.

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When submitting work, whether that be a story or poem to a journal or a full manuscript to a prospective publisher, there is a minimum standard that editors will expect to see. Oftentimes, without some basic care from a writer, an editor will dismiss the work. Not giving your work due attention is a clear sign you’re not serious about your submission and therefore are unlikely to implement changes in a timely manner or carry out the arduous marketing required.

A great editor can make your work sparkle in ways you might never have imagined. They will pick up spelling and grammar errors, note any readability issues, and offer advice for your story in the odd places it may need adjusting. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that you should expect your editor to do everything. They are human and they too may miss things.

First and foremost, an editor will expect your work to have been proofread. Though they are not expecting a flawless piece, it should at least be spellchecked from your word-processor (or using a site like Grammarly). This will find a litany of mistakes that could put editors off. In addition, getting your work proofed by other writers is always advisable. Otherwise, your editor will see all your mistakes and they will judge you for them. If a word has been misspelled, it’s a definite strike against you.

Many publishers and journals have submission guidelines, dictating which font and spacing should be used when submitting work. Sometimes, these guidelines can seem arbitrary, however there’s usually a reason behind them. Partly, it makes sure you’ve submitted work that is suitable for the journal or publisher. Something that fits the themes and style of previously published work. It shows you’ve put in a little bit of research and not just sent out blanket enquiries. Often, the matter of spacing and font is to make it easier for the editor to make notes. Additionally, these editors may read hundreds of pages a day. A little bit of consistency is good for the eyes.

Many writers expect an editor to actually make the edits. This comes back to the issue raised at the top of spotting a lazy writer. An editor is an advisor above all else. They are not the writer, nor should you expect them to be. If a section needs work, they will tell you and it will be up to you to correct it. If they were to make the changes, you would lose track of your original work and it would begin to take the style and form of their writing. If an editor has made a suggestion, you may disagree and offer an explanation but pick your battles well. An editor will grow tired of you defending every issue they raise. When an editor has suggested a change, it’s because they think it will help the work. Not because they’re bossy or they don’t understand you. The editor’s job is to ensure the best work gets put out.

Above all else though, the work you submit should be your best. Some people treat getting published as a numbers game. Blanket emails and submitting everything they’ve ever written. Not only does this clog things up and stop other people’s work being noticed, it also does little to ingratiate to the editors. They will not publish everything, and forcing them to trawl through more slush to find the occasional nugget of gold is only going to irritate them. Though an editor should be a professional, they’re also human and that means they too will eventually opt to block your messages if you send off too much. It also does little to boost your profile. Readers will judge your material; if they’re seeing the work that should have remained on the cutting room floor, it’s unlikely they’ll forgive you for your productivity.

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Connor Sansby is a Margate-based writer, editor, poet and publisher through his super-indie Whisky & Beards publishing label.

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