During the last few weeks, I pitched a magazine editor on an idea for their publication. Within a short time, I received a short response that began, “Sold!” For more than 20 years, I’ve been consistently writing for magazines and it amounts to thousands of articles and assignments. The news of acceptance never gets old and the words continue to have a sweet sound. There is something invigorating about creating the right idea at the right time for the right publication.
Within another couple of exchanges, this editor and I agreed on the specifics such as the deadline and the word length. A few days later in the mail, I received the magazine’s standard contract. Plus the letter included instructions to submit an invoice for payment when the editor tells me they have accepted my submitted article.
Everything is rolling ahead toward that official acceptance. The editor likes my idea and I’m eager to write something that meets the needs of the editor. Many times I’ve had this relationship grow and develop. Then with my next pitch to this magazine, the editor reads my query letter a little closer. If it’s not exactly on target (you can’t hit it every time), the editor may come up with an alternative suggestion. She wouldn’t send that suggestion to an unknown writer but we’ve got a working relationship.
There is another aspect to this story which is rarely discussed—but the writer in particular needs to think about in the creation process. What if you don’t meet the editor’s expectations? Then what happens? Do you get the opportunity to fix it with some guidance from the editor then rewrite it? Or do you simply receive a kill fee or a “thanks but no thank you” letter? I have received a kill fee for a magazine assignment. Depending on the publication, the money can be OK, but the satisfactory feeling of seeing your work in print never happens. I’ve never liked kill fees.
It can also happen in the book world. You pitch a dynamic book idea. Your editor and the entire publishing team loves it. But when you deliver your manuscript (after weeks of work), it’s not what the editor and team expected. Instead the manuscript is froth with problems and things which need to be rewritten and fixed. Some authors push right through this process, fix the concerns and ultimately the book is publish. I’ve had this experience of rewriting to the satisfaction of the publishing team. Other times the contract falls apart and is canceled. The writer feels bad when you cross that bridge and have that experience but yes, it happens.
After experiencing the variety of responses from an editor, I know that I’ve not received all of the possible responses. Each editor is unique and each publishing arrangement is different. Here’s my encouragement to you regarding the sweet words. Celebrate when your words appear in print—however large or small. You’ve succeeded in a way that many people don’t understand and you should celebrate. Many years ago, an editor shook his head at my response to seeing my work in print. Looking back I probably should have been a bit more reserve in that particular setting. He said, “Terry, each time you act like it’s your first time to see your work in print.” He spoke the sentence as a concern but I took it as a compliment. I never want to take for granted the wonder of seeing my work in print.