Monday, July 7, 2008

Editors Are God

One of my ex-students, John Rooney, mentions in his blog (The Ups, Downs and Sometimes Insane World or Freelance Writing) that sometimes editors seem to have a knack of asking for the impossible.

John submitted a query idea to an editor back in February. He heard nothing. Then, and during a time of crisis for him and his family, the editor wrote back asking him to write the article within the next four days. John actually had less than four days because the magazine doesn't accept email submissions, so he had to allow time for the postal system too.

Now many people would dismiss the letter and say that the editor is being completely unreasonable. He has, after all, had since February to make his mind up about whether he likes the idea or not.

However, it is not as simple as that. It may well be that John's idea, now has an element of topicality that makes it suitable for the next issue of the magazine. Perhaps a news item broke last week, and suddenly John's idea is the perfect idea now. This means that it wasn't the perfect idea three weeks ago.

Or perhaps another writer has let this editor down and he's desperate for something to fill the gap at short notice, and he's picked John's idea.

Or perhaps the postal system has swallowed John's idea since last February and only recently spat it out on the editor's desk last week.

Whatever the reason is, moaning about the tight deadline does not solve the problem. If you read John's posting (and I recommend that you do - click on the link above) you'll see that John takes a pragmatic approach to this. Yes it is a pain in the neck that the deadline is just four days. It's unfortunate that it has happened at a time of personal crisis for John. But in this freelancing world, it isn't the writer's place to moan. The editor cannot leave two blank pages in his magazine and just print a sorry excuse saying:

"I'm sorry but the writer was unable to meet their deadline so these pages are left blank."

Reader won't accept it.

Whatever an editor asks for, you have to deliver. If you want his work, you have no choice. If you won't another writer will certainly step into your shoes. In this light, an Editor is God, particularly if you want to be published in that specific magazine. Of course, it is down to you whether you decide to worship that God or not.

But John took what I feel is the right approach. He took the deadline head on, and he delivered on time. The editor could still reject his piece. But the editor will certainly remember that John delivered what he asked, when he asked him to.

It would have been so easy for John to turn around and say, "sorry, I can't do this at the moment." But he didn't. He was still there for his family, but he also found a way of delivering work to the editor too. The chances are, John will be rewarded with more work in the future because of this.

So next time you receive a response from an editor, which wasn't what you expected, stop and think. Could you deliver it if you really put your mind to it? Go on, have a go. You might be surprised with what you achieve.

Good luck.