Friday, September 4, 2020

5 Tips Guaranteed to Make an Editor REJECT Your Story (before they even read it)

Edie here and today I'm over-the-moon excited! My good friend (author, editor, tech GENIUS) has agreed to come on board as a regular columnist for The Write Conversation. Please give Amy C. Williams (A.C.Williams) that warm TWC welcome!


5 Tips Guaranteed to Make an Editor REJECT Your Story (before they even read it)
by A. C. Williams @Free2BFearless

Got a manuscript to pitch at your next conference? Want to be remembered? Of course, you do. But will the editor remember you as a creative professional or as an unteachable, self-entitled know-it-all? 

If you want to make a professional impression on an editor, DON’T do the following: 

1. Ask if they’re old enough to be a publisher.

The first words out of this gal’s mouth when she walked into the appointment room: “Are you old enough to be a publisher?”

She didn’t even say hello. Maybe I should have been flattered. I don’t know. Point being, please don’t question the editor’s age. Leave age out of it completely. Sit down. Shake hands. Make eye contact. Talk about your story. And then leave. 

I don’t remember this lady’s manuscript at all. I just remember her thinking I wasn’t old enough to know what I was talking about. That’s not the impression you want to leave, trust me.

2. Avoid research before your appointment.

“What can you do for me that I can’t do for myself?” That was this author’s opening line. Maybe he thought he was being direct, but he came off like a jerk.

Treat your pitch like a job interview. Look at the editor as someone who is looking to hire you, not the other way around.

If you want to pitch to a publisher, read the books they publish. Read their website. Study their authors. Look at their popularity on different online platforms. See if you can track how they do their marketing. It’s tedious, but you can learn a lot about a publisher before you even meet them.

Going into a pitch with an entitlement mentality is one of the fastest ways for your manuscript to end up in the garbage.

3. Argue with their suggestions.

A young man pitched an epic high fantasy story to me once. I loved the concept. I loved the work he’d done, but it was 375,000 words.

I recommended that he consider splitting it into two or three books to make it more marketable, and you’d think I had suggested chopping his firstborn child into pieces. He got defensive, declared he could write as well as Patrick Rothfuss, so he didn’t need a word count limit.

Y’all, if an editor takes the time to give you feedback at a pitch appointment, please listen. Even at a conference, an editor is under no obligation to do that. Any feedback usually is going to come from a desire to help you be a better writer. 

You are free to disregard their advice, but please—PLEASE—don’t argue with them. Accept feedback and criticism with grace. Eat the watermelon, and then when you aren’t sitting across the table from them, you can spit out the seeds. 

4. Declare if they don’t like your idea they can hit the road.

“My story has some content in it that makes people uncomfortable,” he said, “and if you don’t like it, I’ll go somewhere else.”

I’d love to tell you I told him he could do that, but this was early on in my tenure in acquisitions. So he pitched (professionally too), but as promised, it was cringe-worthy. 

Write what you feel called to write in the way you feel called to write it, but traditional publishing is a partnership. You aren’t the best thing since sliced bread, my friend. And neither is your story. So don’t expect that a publisher will bend over backward to accommodate you.

5. Pitch like a creeper.

Hey, you amazing guy authors out there? You’re incredible, and the industry needs more men like you. Could you pass on your kindness and self-awareness to the others of your gender? The ones who like to use bullying and intimidation to get their way?

Probably the most disturbing pitch I ever took was from a gentleman with a truly horrifying story concept, which he described to me in intricate detail. At the end, I was so uncomfortable, I didn’t know how to respond. 

To be clear, he didn’t DO anything to me, but the content of his manuscript and his attitude about it made me feel unsafe. 

Guys, if you’re writing a story about a delicate subject matter (especially if it’s sexual in nature), please consider who you’re pitching to and take appropriate measures. If you’re pitching to a woman, give her an out. Maybe she can handle it, but don’t just assume that she wants to hear about the sordid escapades in the story without asking her first. Don’t make inappropriate jokes. Don’t insinuate inappropriate things. Don’t try to intimidate her because she has authority over you at that moment. Treat her like God’s daughter, because for all you know, she might be.

In conclusion, editors are people too. Treat them the way you’d like to be treated. And remember, the writing industry as a whole is very small. The Christian writing industry is even smaller. You never know when you’re going to run into another co-laborer in this field again, so put on your grown-up pants and be professional. That’s the best way you can make a positive lasting impression.

TWEETABLE

A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks will never match. She likes her road trips with rock music, her superheroes with snark, and her blankets extra fuzzy, but her first love is stories and the authors who are passionate about telling them. Learn more about her book coaching services and follow her adventures on social media @free2bfearless.

19 comments:

  1. Amy,

    Welcome to TWC and thanks for this interesting article.

    As an editor, I've had many of these types of appointments and reactions. As someone who has been published multiple times with different houses and worked in this industry for decades, it is key to listen to the editor then give them what they have requested. Simple yet surprising what writers do or don't do. When I get these reactions, I often think, "I can lead them to the water but can't make them drink it." Some people have to learn the hard way.

    Terry
    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

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    1. Isn't it amazing? And, yes, it's so important to remember that some folks have to learn the hard way. But hope springs eternal, right? ;-) Thank you for your comment!

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  2. Welcome, Amy! Over the years I've been writing, I've met dozens of editors and agents. Every single one of them h=gave me advice, and all of it was good. All of it helped me further my writing and my career. And I'm looking forward to your contributions here. After all, we never get finished with learning.

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I learn something new every day!

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  3. Welcome, Amy. What a great first article! I am already looking forward to your next one.
    Wow! I can't believe people would act so unprofessional.
    Great tips and a great author voice.

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    1. You're so kind! Thank you so much for your comment. And isn't it crazy? What I consider common courtesy doesn't seem to be so common anymore! LOL

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  4. You have given us excellent advice, Amy. Thank you. I especially like your voice coming through your writing.

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad. Thank you so much!! I had a little bit of fun with this one, so I'm happy to hear the tone came through.

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  5. Amy, Forgive me if I chuckle a bit over this. It isn't really funny, but some of it is worth a smile. I can't imagine a person not understanding some of this. I sat down and wrote my first WIP and realized my name wasn't Tolkien so on my own decided to break it into three books. But it was funny. Have a great day, and thank you for your article. Donevy

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    1. Ha! No forgiveness necessary! I laughed most of the way through writing it, just because some of these things you can't even make up! ... And, what? Your name isn't Tolkien?? lol ... Thank you for your comment. And, please, laugh away. Laughing is my favorite.

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  6. Welcome, Amy. Loved your first article. It's so interesting and helpful. I look forward to more of your writings. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You're so kind. Thank you so much for commenting!

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  7. Thank you for your wise words. To me, these suggestions seem like a no-brainer. Courtesy goes a long way. Welcome to TWC, I look forward to your future articles.

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    1. YES, I was amazed at all of these, and I actually don't have time to tell about all the experiences I've had in acquisitions. But it was such a good learning experience for me, and it really highlighted the value of professionalism. Thank you so much for your kind welcome!

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  8. Welcome to the blog, Amy. Great post!

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  9. Welcome to the team, Amy! Loved this post today. What great insight you've shared. I look forward to your posts. Glad to have you here.

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm so thrilled to get to be a part of this amazing community. Very excited for the future!

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  10. Heavens, I never realized how bizarre some editor appointments can be, or at least unprofessional on the part of the writers pitching. I feel for you and all other editors who've had such awkward moments! Yikes! But it does make any writer stop and think, because no doubt there are less obvious ways an author can shoot herself in the foot while pitching. It pretty much boils down to showing respect for the editor and receptiveness to feedback, doesn't it.

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