Occasionally, you will hear a publisher describe an author as an “editor’s dream.” By this, they usually mean that the editor would have to do a minimal amount of work to make the project better. Which also means the publisher is more likely to consider the piece.
This doesn’t mean that publishers won’t consider projects that need a lot of editing. It just means that the more editing a writer requires, the more difficult it is for their potential to shine through.
Think of it like a job interview. If I’m hiring for a fry chef or an office administrator, I’m NOT looking for potential, someone who might be great provided I spend time working with them, honing their skills, and create the optimum environment for their growth. I want someone who can do the job. Now. Sure, writing is different. Sometimes publishers ARE looking for “The Next Big Thing,” and in doing so, concede to looking past unpolished prose and sloppy formatting. But unless an author is simply looking to bypass the editorial department completely (which often means publishing on their own), is it worth submitting your projects to a publisher without exerting significant editorial elbow grease?
This is a bit of a confession.
A while back, I served as an editor for The Midnight Diner. One of the things I quickly learned was the amount of junk writers will submit for publication.
- First drafts
- Poorly formatted
- Double-spaced between paragraphs
- Wacky fonts
- Non- spell-checked
Of course, none of these things automatically eliminate a story from consideration. But just how many strikes do you allow, even for a rookie, before it’s just stupid to not call them “out”?
Maybe I’m missing something. But I’m surprised how many authors believe their job is to just get the story out there; the editor’s job, they think, is to clean it up.
Editor’s dream? they ask. Who cares.
A little secret: Editors want to do as little work as possible. A story must be pretty darned good for an editor to go back to the author and ask for a rewrite. If you can’t deliver a product that requires minimal, if any, changes on the part of the editor, don’t send it. But the story’s good, you say. It may be. But it’s rare that a good story can survive poor writing. Sure, there’s plenty of good stories told poorly. But when you’re jockeying for position amongst other authors, a poorly told story won’t survive the cut. And the more work you create for an editor, the less chance that editor will bother.
The best stories are the ones that need the least editing.
So here’s a little writing tip: Take your work seriously, revise carefully, follow submission guidelines, take care to format properly, and bring some narrative flair to the process, and you’ll have a much better chance of catching an editor’s eye.
The alternative: Submit a mess, and take your chances.