Dear Editor…

Dear Editor

I’m an aspiring author struggling with my current WIP (I’m actually thinking about scrapping the book altogether!!!), my deadline is now a tiny dot in my rear view mirror and I don’t know how to tell the editor who requested it. I’m sure you’re all lovely people, but honestly editors scare the bejeezus out of writers!

What should I do?!

Anonymous (in case my editor reads this…!)

Dear Anonymous

Working with an editor is like any new relationship; it takes time to build trust and communicate openly. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an aspiring author working with an editor for the first time, or an established author encountering a new problem with your editor, it can be difficult to know how to approach tricky situations.

Below are some of the most common reactions we see to writing dilemmas and some tips on how to approach them better. See if you recognise yourself amongst these…

The Ostrich

You bury your head in the sand/hide under your desk/eat your weight in chocolate all in order to avoid your editor’s emails, calls, DMs on Twitter… But the first leg up out of your writing black hole is to ask your editor for help!

Remember, if we’ve shown an interest in your submission, we want you to succeed and it’s our job to support you in your writing career – whether you need a sounding board for your ideas, a second eye on your first draft, a new deadline or even just a name for your hero! But we can’t help if you don’t tell us what’s up. We’re human too (I promise!) so we understand that life can sometimes get in the way of a deadline and that creativity doesn’t follow a rigid routine. Crucially, we’re on the same team, our ultimate goal is for your books to be the best they can be and to be read by as many people as possible, so we will always do our best to help you achieve this whatever the circumstances. And there is no situation we haven’t seen before!

So next time under the desk starts to look comfy or the chocolate calls to you from the fridge, ask yourself this: what am I actually afraid of? Editors are people too and we’re (mostly) all lovely people 😉

The Atom Bomb

You might have just received revisions you’re not happy with, be feeling fed up waiting for that elusive contract, and just want to throw in the towel, and you’re not afraid to tell your editor EXACTLY how you’re feeling! While we encourage honesty and open communication (see The Ostrich) if you’re feeling particularly emotional about the situation, it’s always better to reflect for a moment before sending that shouty email ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS!!!!!, picking up the phone to actually shout, or storming down to the editorial offices (NOT recommended!) to shout in person!

All the best relationships are built on R.E.S.P.E.C.T (I know you’re singing it in your head now!) so try to channel the professional you…or just take a deep, calming breath before reaching out to your editor! If it helps, type out your shouty email, get it off your chest, but just don’t hit send. A quick phone call can often save a thousand emails and clear things up much quicker, so don’t be afraid to ask an editor you’re working with to call you. Nothing can transform a relationship more than meeting your editor face-to-face, so if you do get the opportunity to attend the same conference for example, take it! And in the meantime there’s always Skype.

The Crowd Pleaser

In any relationship, and particularly in the beginning stages when you’re trying to secure a contract, you want to impress! You might feel the pressure to prove to your editor that they’re right to believe in you, that you have what it takes, to get your book out as quickly as possible, to say yes to that exciting-publishing -opportunity-with-the-really-tight-deadline… But it isn’t always realistic and can lead you to run for cover a la The Ostrich or explode a la The Atom Bomb.

So first of all be honest with yourself; err on the side of caution even, give yourself the time to develop as a writer and establish your own rhythm. Then, be honest with your editor; we will understand if you say ‘that sounds like an amazing opportunity but that deadline is too tight for me’ – it won’t be a black mark against you or mean you won’t ever be considered for a contract ever again! We won’t mind if you ask us to explain that revision point one more time – much better to be clear about it in the beginning than trying to unpick it all again at the end. And we’ll be straight on the phone brainstorming ideas with you if you just don’t know what direction to take your story in..

I hope this has given you some tips on how to approach situations and above all reassured you that your editor is on your side and we’re not two headed monsters…well, not after our morning coffee anyway!

Best wishes,

The Sold Editors x

6 replies on “Dear Editor…”

Great post, thanks, Sold Editors.

Confession time. I’m guilty of being editorstruck! A little afraid of Editor contact – not wanting to be a nuisance resulting in holding back from asking for help.

Now I know why. I’m trying to prove I can do what’s been asked of me. All by myself. When that doesn’t work, it’s easy to let confidence drain away leaving room for a flood of doubts. Believing the Editor has probably spent enough time on me and my manuscript and start to think I’ve had my turn and blown it, now give her a break and quietly slip away!

Wow, that was a lot for me to front up to. I’m glad this post gave me an opportunity to get that off my chest! (nervous laugh).
Next time (fingers positively crossed) I will approach Editor contact very differently.
Thanks again for this post, Editors. xx

GREAT advice! I can say from experience that asking for what you need, be that time, help, clarity, what have you, isn’t going to be met with anything other than kind professionalism. The editors at Harlequin are amazing, and there to help you!

Totally agree with you, Katie. I think I had the equivalent of stage fright! The editor was brilliant. xx

What a fabulous, encouraging response to Anonymous, Sold Editors. Something like this is what we writers should print out and thumbtack to our walls. 🙂 (Spread the word, all.)

I think this is when your professionalizum has to kick in. Be realistic, be truthful, be pragmatic, and be serious.

So pleased you all loved this post so much! We hope it’s put peoples’ minds at ease about reaching out to the Harlequin editors they’re working with and asking for help when needed.

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