Busting Your Editor’s Chops

Writers love to gossip about editors, agents, and publishers. Much of the time, that gossip is pretty harmless, but sometimes it can come back to bite you.

I was reminded of this over the past week when I read a Facebook post by a young woman who had had a story rejected for an anthology. She later sent the story back out, found a publisher, got on a ballot for an award, and then took a few moments to . . . attack the editor who had rejected her.

Okay, I get it. She was angry and felt validated. If I were her editor, I think I’d understand her reaction. After all, in any anthology or magazine, there are dozens of good stories that won’t fit into one volume. But I also would never even consider publishing her again. Why? Because her childish venting not only might damage my reputation, but it is intended to.

Her reaction is pretty common. As an editor for an annual anthology, I’ve gotten a couple of letters from authors who wanted me to know what a tasteless jerk I am. The interesting thing is that these letters always seem to come from authors who have written great stories that I genuinely liked. They were finalists in my contest. In short, they’re people that I would hope to see getting published.

May I make a suggestion? I want you to think about something: just as authors like to gossip about editors and agents and publishers, the reverse is also true. An editor may not send you hate mail, but they can damage your reputation.

In fact, I’ve heard of authors who are limping through their careers, struggling to get published, even though they’re acknowledged as being fine writers who have won major awards. But no one wants to work with them.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of being a professional. In other words, a professional is someone who works hard, meets deadlines, tries to be a team player, and so on.

A professional doesn’t whine if he doesn’t get his way with his publisher. He doesn’t punch his agent in the face. He doesn’t talk nasty about his agent. He recognizes that each of these people perform a valuable service, are probably doing the best they know how, and therefore strives to develop strong relationships with them.

If you look at successful authors, ones with long and healthy careers, you’ll find that they behave professionally. So today I’m going to recommend a book for those who want to work in this industry: Million Dollar Professionalism by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.

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