Saturday, January 21, 2012

What NOT To Send An Editor

As a consulting writer, I see a lot of submissions, either from people who send me their work and want an opinion, or people who send me their work hoping it will lead me to taking them on as a client.

Here's a small word of advice - If you'd like to be my client, talk to me a bit BEFORE you send your manuscript/masterpiece/board game/script/etc, if only for a few reasons:

1. It is entirely possible you won't like HOW I work.
2. It is entirely possible that you won't like how much I charge.
3. It is entirely possible I won't like how you comport yourself.
4. It is entirely possible that what you want to do/have done is not something I actually can assist you with. (Like website coding, managing your finances, making your ex realize the error of their ways or helping you figure out what to wear)

Talking to me first (send me an email or find me on Twitter if you want more immediate conversation) is a good idea. AND IT'S FREE. Take advantage of it.

Now, this evening, as I wait for things to be backed up online and people to reply to emails, I dig into my pile of "Things To Be Read" and grab a pen. This pile has already been vetted by TWO people by the time it reaches me, so usually, the contents of this pile are either things I need to follow up with, or fantastic teaching opportunities. Or they're stellar shining examples of great work that I don't shut up about.

But sometimes, things stay in the pile because they're so.......bad (let's be honest here) that, as the kids say, they're there for the "lulz".

Not "Oh wow this is comedy gold", but "Oh wait, no, no this has to stop, please, I beg you, no more". And it is to that point I speak tonight.

Please DO NOT SEND THE FOLLOWING THINGS TO AN EDITOR, EVER:

1. Please do not send your fan-fiction, relationship melodrama or "rewrites" of your favorite TV shows. Yes, I get it, you didn't like the whole Dawn-is-a-Key angle in Buffy, but that doesn't mean I want to read 300 pages about how you'd turn Dawn into a Slayer who kills with BDSM sex powers. Nor do I care that you think 'Huddy' was the ruination of House.

Chances are that what sinks your fan fiction isn't the premise but the execution. You may have some very valid perspectives and takes on an existing world. You may suggest some interesting plot variants. But the quality of your writing.....well, let's just say it should be professional. That means yes, check your spelling and grammar, and yes please oh please use paragraphs, complete sentences and punctuation.

2. Please do not beg that I take you on as a client. Yes, you may be the 99%. Yes, you may be deeply afflicted by terrible phobias and illnesses, and yes that is unfortunate. You may be the victim of abuses or neglect or short or tall or hungry or whatever you are -- but it is my job to make your work better and make you a better producer of that work, NOT get you over some therapeutic hump so that you can THEN get around to writing. I am not Freud, Jung, Rogers or Skinner. If you need help, get help. I'm here to help your work, and by extension, you - not the other way around.

3. Please do not send photos of the people "you'd like to prove wrong" by getting your book published. First, that's way creepy. Second, I would prefer not being an accessory to whatever plot you've cooked up late at night while you listen to Fleet Foxes in the dark.

4. Please do not send me information about my own life, to prove what you know about me. Great, you found me on the internet, and maybe you know who I dated, lived with, or what I did at this place or date. If you're doing that to coerce my working with you, that's creepy and mean. If you're doing that to create some sort of friendship...that's not how my friendships operate. Please don't do that.

5. Please do not send the same material under multiple names. (Names are made up in this example) If I don't reply back to "Erik", I would trust that "Erik" moves on and doesn't suddenly conscript "Erika" "Karen" "Skylar" "Darla" "Tim" and "Luigi" to send me the same email with the same attachment from new and exciting email accounts. Just like in life, NO means NO. Improve the pitch, improve the material, try again, yes, but don't think you're going to wear an editor into submission.

6. Please do not barter "favors". If you want me to work with you, it's easiest if you straight out ask, and make a good argument. Don't suggest that you'll wash my car, have your attractive friend sleep with me, offer to let me watch you sleep with someone else or, my personal favorite, "owe me one later." Really, it's not that hard to get me to work with you -- do a good job asking, work really hard, take my advice. Done.

7. Please do not do something 'above and beyond' what's asked. If I say, "Email me and we'll talk." I want you to....email me. If an editor says, "Send me a SASE", then they want an envelope. This is not code for "I'd like you to come to one of my workshops and sit in the back and stare at me for ten minutes before you speak" or "send a packing crate with hearts and glitter on it." An editor's job is exponentially easier if we can trust the writer(s) we work with to follow directions. If the directions are unclear, ASK.

8. Please do not push. I am known to be a quick and efficient email writer. If you send me a message, my reply is prompt and thorough. If for whatever reason it's taken me some time to reply to you (whether due to illness or busyness or business or the fact that I'm not in the office), sending multiple emails asking the same question is NOT going to help your cause. I do not respond well to being pushed. If the problem is urgent, yes, there are ways to reach me, but for the most part, you don't have to push if you want an answer.

9. Please do not make your editor your last resort. Just like I don't like being pushed, I don't like hearing that if I don't help you, you're killing yourself. I neither want the guilt or the knowledge. Don't.

10. Please do not send your editor dirt on other editors. So, you've come to me because Editors 1 - 6 weren't helpful? And you've decided to detail their flaws to me in an email, as if this will help persuade me? Interesting move. I should point out that it is very likely that the afternoon after you've sent me that email I will see Editors 1 - 6 some where and we'll have lunch or talk shop. Some of those people are my friends, I've been to their homes, played with their dogs and seen their babies. Yes I agree they can be irritating professionally, but you're not currying favor by telling me my friends suck and here's proof. Be professional, be adult, and as my mother says, "Suck it up, get a life, and move on."

Now, go enjoy your weekend. Character 101 begins on Monday.