How To Be An Editor's Dream

I took in the 2010 Ad Astra Science Fiction Convention in Toronto. Yes, it can be a circus, watching stormtroopers and Jedi knights mingle with zombies and characters from “Dr. Who”. But there were also some good sessions, including one about how to get on a book or magazine editor’s good side. Four editors revealed what they like and don’t like.

  • The first thing is to do your homework: read an issue of their magazine or some books they’ve published so you don’t send them material they don’t publish. That just wastes everyone’s time. Pick a publisher who puts out work you like. Then read the submission guidelines and follow them. Every publisher who accepts unsolicited manuscripts will have guidelines for authors. Not following them just looks unprofessional.

  • Your query letter is your first impression. Show professionalism in every aspect. Don’t give away the story’s ending. Don’t claim your work is the next Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter series, although more realistic (ie. less arrogant) comparisons can be helpful (particularly in an elevator pitch). Just don’t make any claims you can’t live up to. Only include the best of your credits, and only personal info that’s relevant to the work.

  • Don’t feel entitled, as if you’re shopping for someone good enough to handle your masterpiece. You’re asking someone to invest in you.

  • Have a good attitude: positive, open-minded, willing to accept hard criticism. Because editors really do want to work with great writing and great writers—harsh criticism means you’re going to get somewhere in the end.

  • Never ever badmouth an editor at a convention, online (it stays in cyberspace forever), or anywhere else. They have long memories.

  • Bottom line: be totally professional and make their job easier, not harder. As one of the editors put it, 90% of his experiences with writers are positive…because he never works with problem writers a second time.