Tuesday, February 13, 2018
What Editors and Publishers Hate.
Anyone who deals with an editor (whether paid or a volunteer or an editor for a publishing house) or directly with a publisher need to know what irritates them. Keeping a publisher and/or an editor happy makes for a smoother relationship. So, what things do publishers and editors hate?
1. Submitters who do not follow guidelines irk anyone dealing with writers. More than one person has submitted to 4RV and sent material we do not publish with cover letters stating the story, writing, whatever was SOOOOO good that we would accept the manuscript any way. What arrogance. Editors and publishers hate when authors do not conduct themselves as professionals. If a manuscript, no matter how excellent, does not fit the form, style, or genre of a publishing house, it will be rejected. Even if the most well-written, wonderful material in the world, not every publisher will be interested.
A sub-point of not following guidelines is an author shows he does not or will not follow directions. No one wants to work with anyone who won’t follow directions.
According to Alex Field (“The Editor Behind the Curtain,” Writer’s Digest, March/April 2018), authors need to do their homework. Research the differences between fiction and nonfiction, and what is needed for submissions for each. “Every category and genre of publishing is governed by unspoken rules.” Writers must know what is needed and what isn’t.
2. Editors and publishers HATE a writer whose submission is rejected who sends a hateful attack in reply. For example, one of my imprint editors sent a very polite refusal letter to an author with suggestions for improvement. He wrote an email attacking the editor, calling her inept and blind, saying that her “vanity press” would never matter, and a few other choice words. In his email, he revealed that he had stolen the idea for his manuscript from a popular children’s book from some years ago. As I told him, the publishing community is small, and if he wanted to be accepted by any publisher he needed to 1.) Write better; 2.) Work with others better; 3.) Learn how to use rejection to become better; and 4.) Never be rude. I also informed him that we weren’t a vanity press, that we paid for everything and the authors paid for nothing, and that as the people paying the bills, we could refuse anything submitted that we didn’t like.
3. Unprofessionalism can also be found when a writer asks a writing expert to give an opinion and sends a rough draft, and, yes, writers even submit rough drafts to publishers. Anytime someone sends a manuscript to a professional, the material should be well-written and well-edited.
Other turn-offs for publishers and editors include the following:
4. Publishers and/or editors hate manuscripts that are not completely edited. Bad punctuation, spelling, and grammar: traits of a writer with no experience or one who hasn’t taken the time to learn or research correct needs of writing sentences, much less a manuscript. Editors hate when an author doesn’t even run spell-check or try to correct grammar and punctuation. Yes, the major part of a submission is the story, but punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes distract readers from understanding what the author wants to convey.
Other editing problems include lack of coherency, cohesion, clarity, completeness, and conciseness.
Steven James and Pam Johnson (“The 7 Deadly Sins of Editors & Novelists,” Writer’s Digest, March/April 2018) wrote a give and take between a novelist, Steven James, and editor, Pam Johnson. One point that novelists should avoid is sloppiness, not submitting one’s best work. No, it is not the editor’s job to fix an author’s typos and errors. “Never settle for sending in less than your best.”
5. Unbelievable dialogue is disliked: Dialogue should flow and not sound stilted, needs to be realistic. Also incorrect punctuation around dialogue.
6. Publishers and editors hate scenes not set. No, an author doesn’t need to give detailed descriptions, but enough information is needed so readers have an idea where or when the scene takes place – at least a general idea.
7. Cardboard characters “turn-off” editors/publishers. Characters should be 3 dimensional, and someone for the reader to care about. Don’t let characters be predictable and don’t give a character’s back story all at once. Providing a back story is not the same as creating and developing a character that comes to life. One is telling, and the other is showing. Make characters believable with motivation for actions.
8. They don’t like novels too long or too short. Over 200,000 and under 50,000 words are unacceptable for common publishing standards.
9. A poor plot: Every story needs a plot that begins with a hook and keeps the reader interested. The plot should not have inconsistencies in the story, characters, or timeline.
10. No originality or freshness. Even general ideas need to be “made” the author’s. My example earlier about the writer “stealing” the idea of another book was bad enough, and then his poor writing made it worse.
11. Publishers hate when an author figuratively sits backs and crosses his arms and does nothing to promote or market his book. Authors should have a marketing plan before submitting a manuscript, a platform. If authors such as James Patterson must promote “his” books, then the rest of us surely need to do the same.
Alex Field says an author must be his/her book’s CMO – Chief Marketing Officer. “You are its (your book’s) first and last advocate.” No one cares more about a book’s success than its writer.
12. Editors hate when the writing is heavy and unwieldy. It includes inflated sentences, stilted language, and overuse of adjectives and adverbs.
13. They hate repetitive use of vocabulary and repetitive sentence structure and length.
14. Publishers and editors hate clichés and stereotypes. Lazy writers use such devices.
15. They hate the narrative telling rather than showing. Narrative must develop the scene. “The party was loud” tells, but describing the conversations, the waiter dropping a tray, cell phones ringing shows.
16. Editors hate when dialogues turn into speeches. Dialogue shows relationships, moves the story along, creates scenes, etc. It is the interaction of two people or more, not a chance to “tell” by having someone give a speech.
17. They hate when events or a character’s behavior has no motivation, no reason.
18. A complaint from many editors, including those from 4RV, is writers do not learn, whether they can’t or won’t. An editor points out a problem in one section of a manuscript and suggests the writer check the rest of the manuscript for like problems and correct them. However, the writer doesn’t, expects the editor to find them and correct. Then a writer doesn’t learn from one project to the next. The same problems occur one project after another. An editor’s job is not to rewrite a book for an author but to help the author polish a manuscript.
19. Authors fail to realize that writing and preparing a book is a long process. The writing portion requires round and round of revisions before the book is submitted. According to Pam Johnson, “Quality takes multiple rewrites.” Steven James adds, “Anything worth publishing takes time.”
A few other bits and pieces from publishers and editors that they hate: use of “fiction novel”; following a trend without an authentic manuscript; manuscripts too complicated to be published; manuscript is boring; shifting into a sliding point of view; a writer saying how great his book is; writing is too flowery; graphic violence, profanity, and explicit sex; writer has an unpleasant tone and attitude; book’s pacing is off.
Of course, I can’t possibly cover every possible thing publishers and editors hate, but those are the main ones I’ve found and many of the ones I hate.
Vivian Zabel, from general researching, experience, and writings
Angela Hoy, the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com
Amanda Hampson The Write Workshops
Alex Field, “The Editor Behind the Curtain,” Writer’s Digest, March/April 2018
Steven James and Pam Johnson, “The 7 Deadly Sins of Editors & Novelists,” Writer’s Digest,