Monday, October 24, 2011

The Forest for the Trees: An Editors' Advice to Writers

To writers, particularly unpublished ones, editors can seem imposing figures determined to thwart their success. They won't take calls, they don't offer feedback--sometimes they don't respond to queries at all. Guess what: Editors don't lug home hundreds of pounds of manuscripts to read each year because they aren't looking for good writing. "An editor gets off," says Lerner, "on the thrill of discovering a new writer." Editors crave "succinct, well-written cover letters," inspiration that comes from within (as opposed to from the bestseller list), and "catchy, clearly targeted title[s]." They detest unsolicited phone calls, "query letters that sound as if they were penned by Crazy Eddie," and writers who offer to "write it however I want it" (it's "like saying I'll be straight or gay; you tell me, I have no preference"). Lerner is aware of how excruciating it is for a writer to wait for feedback on his or her work. But she also lets writers in on a little secret of her own. "I'm always anxious about the author's response," she confides. "Will he or she take to my editing?