Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to Annoy an Editor

It's the final week of the reading period for Sword and Sorceress 29, which means I've read a lot of stories and know that the pace will only increase over the next two days. I'm still trying to recover from bronchitis (it's doing much better than I am), it's late, I'm tired, I ache all over, and I'm still reading slush when I'd rather be in bed. Admittedly right now it's a bit easier to annoy me than usual, but the things on this list will annoy most editors.

  1. Don't read the guidelines. Send the editor something she would never buy while there is a breath in her body. 
  2. Ignore the instructions on how to format the subject line, so that the editor has to fish your submission out of the spam folder. (My e-mail program looks for a subject line starting with "SS29," and puts that in the to-be-read folder. Variations, such as "SS 29," can go anywhere, and usually do.)
  3. Make it obvious by what you submit that you have never read a single volume of the anthology, even though there are 28 of them, and the last six are readily available in both paperback and eBook formats.
  4. Spell the editor's name wrong (bonus points for this if it's in the guidelines as well as on previous volumes of the anthology).
  5. Explain your story in your cover letter. You can't expect the editor to understand how brilliant you are if all she reads is your story. (The fact that all she's going to buy is the story is irrelevant.)
  6. When your story is rejected, write and ask the editor exactly what she didn't like about it. She's only reading about a dozen stories a day; she's sure to remember one she rejected over a week ago because it didn't catch her interest.
  7. Don't bother to proofread your manuscript. Isn't that what an editor is for: to catch your spelling errors and the mistakes in grammar you should have learned not to make in elementary school?
  8. Tell the editor how much your mother/spouse/children love your story. Ignore the fact that (a) they may not be the usual audience for the book, and (b) they're probably biased in your favor.
  9. Have a signature in your e-mail that's longer than the body of the e-mail. Make sure it has "Author" after your name. After all, maybe you're a non-author submitting to a professional market. Then add your website, Facebook page, Twitter account, blog, etc.--plus the reviews and/or descriptions for your last six stories--especially if they were self-published.
  10. Have a cute e-mail address. "sex_kitten@aol.com" will assure the editor that you are a professional who takes her work seriously. OK, if you're submitting to a market for erotica, you can get away with that one, but there's always "worldsgreatestwriter@yahoo.com" to tell the editor that you're wonderful.
The editor doesn't care how wonderful you are. She's not judging you (or at least she's trying not to), what she is trying to judge is whether your story will work well in the collection of stories she's assembling for this year's anthology. So write a good story, and don't convince her that you'll be a total pain to work with. Remember that this is the start of a relationship; she may be paying royalties to you for decades to come. Ask anyone who sold a story to The Keeper's Price, back in 1980.