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Writing and Publishing

Are You a Rookie or a Professional Writer?

The Other Side of Article Submissions from an Editor’s Perspective

Are You a Professional Writer? Check out these pointers.

For the past thirty-five years, I’ve been submitting articles to periodicals. For the past sixteen, I’ve also been on the receiving end as a trade magazine publisher and editor. This gives me a 360-degree understanding of what happens to an article from conception to publication—and everything in between.

In my role as submission gatekeeper, I see a wide variety of articles, from the interesting and finely honed to those missing the mark and sloppy. I also deal with all manner of authors, from the skilled professional writer to the high-maintenance novice.

These two factors result in four possible combinations of article/author dynamics:

  1. You have a great article and are professional: Your work is on the fast track to publication. Feel free to send me an article every month, and I will seriously consider it.
  2. You have a great article but are hard to work with: I groan when I see your email, look for an excuse to reject your submission, and give it a low priority.
  3. Your article needs work, but you don’t: I appreciate your effort and will give your submission extra attention to make it great, knowing you will humbly accept my edits and be thankful for the results. I want to see you improve.
  4. Your article needs work and so do you: Sorry, you’re out of luck.

Therefore, for the greatest chance of having your article accepted, you need to create a powerful piece and be easy to work with. Although there are a plethora of resources to help writers refine their writing, there are not so many addressing the supporting issues that can mean the difference between rejection and acceptance.

[bctt tweet=”Consider these contrasts between rookie and professional writers.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

Consider the following contrasts between a rookie and a professional writer.

You May Be a Rookie Writer If You:

  • Forget to spell-check your work: This is simply inexcusable.
  • Leave “Track Changes” on and include your reviewer’s edits: This means you were in a hurry or haven’t yet mastered your word processor.
  • Submit the wrong version: This error tells me you’re not organized. I have no expectation your writing structure is any better.
  • Assume the submission guidelines don’t apply to you: Guidelines are for the writer’s benefit. Learn them and embrace them.
  • Insist on no editing or require the approval of all changes: All submissions will be edited. It’s a reality of periodical publishing. The only exception is publishers who don’t care about quality. And do you really want to be associated with a shoddy publication?
  • Think artistic formatting equals creative writing: The use of italic, underline, bold, and all caps to add emphasis is not a sign of writing creativity but a lack thereof.
  • Insert needless self-promotion: If you do this once, I may edit it out. If you do this too much, I’ll simply reject your submission.
  • Argue to have your work accepted: No means no. There’s no room for discussion. You’ll gain nothing positive by pleading or threatening.
  • Beg for feedback: A writer who needs help with their craft should seek it from a different source prior to submission. A publication editor is not that person. Helping you become a better writer is not their job.

You Are a Professional Writer If You:

  • Produce articles that require few edits: You do whatever it takes to submit your best work.
  • Do what you say: When you promise a piece, you always deliver.
  • Meet deadlines: Deadlines are needed to produce a magazine on time, and you respect them, always meeting or exceeding expectations and never requesting an extension. You also understand that merely submitting your piece on time doesn’t guarantee a place in the next issue.
  • Know your target: Be familiar with the publication you’re submitting to, understanding its style and content. Know the audience and what they want.
  • Understand how the industry works: You comprehend periodical lead times and space limitations; you accept edits and deferred publication.
  • Minimize non-work-related communication: You keep your communication focused on business and don’t engage in superfluous interaction.

I’m not advocating perfection—I certainly miss the mark on that—but striving for excellence is a worthy goal that a professional writer pursues.

There’s more to consider, but this is a good starting point.

With this information, I encourage you to go write, avoid these rookie mistakes, and be a professional writer. The publication is sure to one day follow.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!