Friday, April 20, 2007

ARTICLE - Twelve Tales of Woe from a Busy (and Grumpy) Editor

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Here's an imaginary letter from a busy and grumpy editor to you, yes, YOU! (And, yes, it made me feel good to write it!)

Dear Freelancer, Author of Poetry, Short Stories, Books or Anything Else:

Pretend I'm a Busy Editor (or Agent or Publisher or Producer) that you want to contact. I depend on what you have to say for content but not nearly badly enough to have to dig for it. In other words--to be perfectly blunt-- there are lots of feature ideas out there, lots of authors, lots of books and no matter how good yours is, yours is not worth it to me to have to work overtime. Something else will come along shortly and that person will have the savvy to make my job easy for me. So, here are some ways to help me out:

1. Don't send attachments. I jus' ain't gonna open them. (Clinton might say, "It's not only the time, it's the viruses, stupid!")

2. Let me know if you have a media kit available, electronically and by post. If I want one, I'll ask.

3. Don't make me fill out and squint at one of those little spam forms for your convenience. Nope, not gonna go there!

4. If you're sending me something for one of my columns or features, try to send it in the style I use or at the very least, include all the information that I need.

5. If you send me a letter, tell me what it is you want. I'm not a mind reader. Do you want something included in my newsletter? Do you want me to consider it as recommendation for my classes? Do you want me publish it on my website? My anthology? Most editors do more than one thing.

6. If you're sending something by e-mail tell me what in the subject line. Media Release. Query. Subscribe. Whatever. Then follow that with a subject line I can't resist. Otherwise--you guessed it--I might not open it thinking it's SPAM.

7. Use a signature line. PLEASE! Even if we've corresponded before. I'm not as young as I used to be. I have more contacts than I used to. I may know more than one Pam. I may even know more than one Pam Brown.

8. Don't change your e-mail every two weeks and expect me to keep my files current.

9. Don't reply to one of my e-mails without clipping and pasting a sentence or two to remind me what I said to you. You know? I may have written 200 e-mails on Tuesday!

10. Don't expect me to trail around your website finding what I need for a story. Put it all in one, easily identifiable place. Like a media room. When I have my radio host hat on, I don't even mind if you call it a press room, but I'll know you're more of a professional if you don't!

11. Try to use my name if you're contacting me personally. I don't mind mass e-mails but you'll get better results from something personal.

12. Keep your messages or letters full of information, yes, but still as short as possible. You should be able to pick out the most pertinent part of your message and say it one page.

13. A baker's dozen. Something extra to illustrate this point. Always give more service than an editor asks for. Let him or her know you're available to help. When asked, answer promptly and completely. And don't send new information in scraps. Include what you sent before for easy reference.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning novelist and poet. She is an instructor for UCLA Extension's Writers' Program and has shared her expertise at venues like San Diego State's world renowned Writers' Conference and Call to Arts! EXPO. She was recently awarded Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by the California Legislature; her home town's Character and Ethics Commission honored her for her work on promoting tolerance and the Pasadena Weekly named her to their list of "San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen" for literary activism. Her nitty gritty how-to book, THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER won USA Book News' Best Professional Book and the Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award. Her second in the HowToDoItFrugally Series is The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Cheryl Wright of says, "The Frugal Editor will become a well-used reference for writers around the world." .


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Dear LaShaunda:

Thank you for posting my little rant. Hope the authors (and others for that matter!) who visit your blog find it helpful, even if it is grumpy.
Anyone interested in learning more about the craft of writing, book promotion, tech related to publishing and more may want to subscribe to my newsletter,"Sharing with Writers." Just send an e-mail to with "subscribe" in the subject line.

Thank again, L. I love your e-group. I hope everyone will consider signing up for that,too!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Award-winning author

Jewel Sample said...

Hi LaShaunda!

Ha! I needed a good laugh today. Thank you for posting Carolyn's nuggets of wisdom for writers to remember. I noticed you are in St. Louis. I will be in St Louis on July 20,2007 to speak for The National Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Voices of Hope Conference at the Crowne Hotel.

Best to you in your writing endeavors!
Jewel Sample
Flying Hugs and Kisses author

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