Letters To The Editor For March 2nd

~Janet Shares Hint On Providing “Samples”~

I note and applaud your comment that one should retain rights for a sample script (or any other required “sample” when seeking a writing job.) Here’s a tip. I once landed a very good book contract based on an extensive sample that was unpublishable because none of it was true.

It showed that I understood the book format and content and it demonstrated my writing style. However, by making it all up I didn’t have to do the grueling hours of research that go into writing a travel book. This may not work for every writer in every instance, and I already had several book titles to my credit, but I thought I’d pass the idea along. Good luck. I enjoy your newsletter.

Janet Groene
Author, Columnist and Feature Writer

~A “Free Book” To Review Isn’t Respectable Payment~

This is in response to the Ask the Expert of last week’s issue with the question “Do you think I am being taken advantage of doing reviews for free”? As a book reviewer, it’s sad to say that book reviews seem to be one of the most common types of writing that many website owners and magazine publishers expect for free. If there is payment, often it’s the lowest.

The common explanation seems to be that the book one reviews is payment enough. So the experience is the reward. If a writer gets an interview with a favorite celebrity, the writer shouldn’t get paid because just meeting the celebrity is payment enough. If the writer gets to attend and write about a fun event, going to the event should be payment enough. But of course, the writer would be paid in these circumstances.

So book reviewers should get paid for their writing skills and not just given a free book. I urge other book reviewers to put a value on their writing that’s worth more than a free book.

Niki Taylor

~Spewing Venom At Editors~

Dick says:

I have been writing a weekly column for 12 years. A month or so ago I wrote a column which fit my role as senior advocate. The editor of one Sunday paper refused to print it. Why? Because she thought my tone should have been more conciliatory. Did I agree? Not entirely but my anger at the Medicaid situation showed through. Did I get mad? No.

That editor has an entire special edition to organize and publish every Sunday. The paper has to have the look and tone that she wants it to have. Why does your writer think they give Oscars to directors as well as actors? I am extremelly privileged to be afforded 600 words of space every week and that comes with the responsibility to fill that space as professionally as I can. Thank God for editors who keep my big mouth out of trouble.

Dick Learned

Christa says:

While I’m sure this has been beaten to death by this point: The old sayings, “It’s a small world” and “What comes around goes around” apply to editors and rejection letters as much (if not more so) than anywhere else. When a writer lashes out at an editor, they not only have shot themselves in the foot from ever writing for that publication again, but they had better pray that that editor never leaves to go someplace else (and they can start praying now, because we know how often editors stay in one place over the course of their careers!).

And while that writer is praying, they may as well throw in that they hope the editor lives in a vacuum: Everybody talks. Like good service at a fine restaurant, 99% of the time, a compliment only goes to the waitperson. Bad service or bad food, though? That information is shared with every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Conversely, in the writer’s “defense”: Why would he/she want to write for an editor that doesn’t like their idea anyways? If they feel that strongly about the piece, they should find another avenue for it. From a dollars and sense perspective, I’d advise this: You told her it was too basic. She should review the article, find a new angle, and pitch it again. Meanwhile, she pitches her original piece to other editors, and with some luck, she’ll have two assignments versus one. Call me crazy, but if I can make money selling something twice with minor amounts of rework, that’s a far better use of my time than spewing hate mail. But that’s just me…

Just a thought…

Christa Burlakoff-Lawcock

Barbara says:

Your piece on arguing with editors reminds me of the wanna be contestants on American Idol who end their audition cursing at the judges. As my husband and I watched the try-outs with our teenage son, we used the opportunity to reiterate why manners matter and burning bridges is foolish.

Frankly, I’m grateful when an editor responds to a query. Even if it is a rejection, I can submit the article elsewhere or take the opportunity to re-evaluate the work.

I’d like to thank all the editors, like you, who take the time to respond to writers.

Barbara Twardowski
(The Twardowskis are freelance writers. Published in dozens of magazines,
their work can be seen in Birmingham Home and Garden, Louisiana Cookin’, andAtlanta’s Points North.)

Cheryl says:

You never cease to amaze me. People argue with editors? Wow! That’s like kicking the teacher because you failed a grade!

Now, I’ll admit, not all editors are alike, but so far, I’ve only had people encouraging me to continue writing stories and submitting them for inclusion in their publications. I’ve received form letters, true, but each one has a little note from the editor on it. That tells me that they’ve taken the time to seriously read my story and they feel that the writing is good. It’s just that the subject that doesn’t quite fit in with what they do. I can live with that.

When I submitted a story to On Spec Magazine, I wasn’t sent the usual ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter, but one that listed the 12 most common mistakes they’ve seen a writer make. It listed writing faults, as well as formatting faults. I did well with the formatting, but the tick beside “characterization needs work” got me thinking of ways to improve how my characters appear on the page. I’m not perfect at it yet, but the nudge from Diane at On Spec Magazine gave me a definite area to work on.

One submission, one editor and I learned a lot of things, what specifically I need to improve, that I write well, and that my story did exactly as I’d planned – it made someone smile.

Give an editor a hard time about a refusal? Not when they’re teaching me for free, I won’t.

That probably explains why I’ve learned so much from you, too, Angela. Thanks.

Cheryl Lloyd

Kathaleen says:

I just finished reading your column about the way some writers manage to destroy any further possibilities for publication by way of a hostile reaction to a rejection letter, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. To me, it is just as destructive to one’s career as writing a nasty letter to an interviewer after being passed over for a job or promotion.

Currently, I am picking up my creative writing again (after spending the last two years in graduate school), and I realize that rejection is part of the process for writers. Having had to rewrite whole sections of my master’s thesis in response to a “rejection” by one member of my committee, I know that rejection letters are part of the learning and growth good writers must experience.

Thank you,
Kathaleen Reed