So, uh, I haven’t received any rejection letters lately. Note, this is not because I’m such a better writer now; I’ve just failed to send any submissions. Since I’m short on rejections to talk about, I thought I’d add another entry into my much smaller (minuscule, really) acceptance letter section on the ol’ blog.
The letter I’m going to talk about today is the acceptance + edits letter, which, in my experience, is not too uncommon. Basically, it’s a very polite (and welcome, I might add), “Hey, we dig your story, and we’re going to publish it, but fix this stuff first.”
Here’s one from my collection.
Thanks for your submission, “XXX.” I’m happy to say that I’ve acquired it for XXX issue! I’ve attached your story with my edits. Once you’ve read through and addressed every suggestion to the best of your ability, send your polished version to my associate editor, [name], and she’ll work with you to get your story ready for publication. I’ve also included [name], XXX’s production manager, so she can send you your contract when it gets closer to our publication date.
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to let me know.
In this particular case, the edits comprised of a dropped word and the editor’s request that I remove the profanity from the story. These guys are a family friendly market, and I missed that in the submission guidelines (negative Rejectomancy XP for me), so I had absolutely no problem making the changes.
In my experience, most of the changes a publisher will ask for after an acceptance are minor and amount to proofing rather than actual editing. That’s not surprising, really. Smaller markets don’t usually have the resources to overhaul a story, no matter how much they like the concept. In other words, they’re looking for stories that don’t require a lot of editing. Keep that in mind when you’re polishing up your work for submission.
So what happens if you don’t agree with a publisher’s edits? I’ve run into this a couple of times, and the answer is really simple: let the editor know, politely, that you disagree with a suggested change and then explain why. In my experience, you’ll then have a dialog with the editor that will result in a) you keeping the story the way you want it or b) coming to a compromise that works for both of you. Remember, editors are often writers too, and most are quite willing to work with an author so he or she is happy with the published story.
Have you received an acceptance + edits letter? Tell me about it in the comments.
From a small anthology, yes. : )
Yes, as matter of fact, the very first acceptance letter I ever received had a request for an edit. The editor told me my original ending was “sentimental” and “obvious,” so I changed it to make it more ironic. In hindsight, I think the new ending could have been better, but by making the change, I was able to get the story published.
I’ve actually gotten three rewrite requests to date. One very similar to yours (not surprising, I bet I could guess the publication it came from), one with minor edits that then led to “I’m still not sure if I want this, we’re really backlogged with entries, can I think about it?” and one with a major rewrite request as they asked for me to change the ending.
It…took me longer than I’d like to admit. Embarrassingly so, but at the same time it was back to the drawing board in a lot of ways, especially because I’m not the best at endings to begin with. They’re looking at it now but not guarantees that they’ll still want it just because literally half of it was rewritten. (The perils of flash fiction right there.)
Yes! In my case, the editor let me know that a plot point was too ambiguous and I needed to clarify it. It was particularly helpful advice because it was something that foreshadowed the plot twist, and I’d deliberately underwritten it in order to avoid giving anything away. Turns out I was too close to the story and what I thought was “subtle” was actually needlessly confusing.
It’s hard to judge that sort of thing yourself, and I really appreciated having the outside eye of a good editor. The story was better for it.
My magazine isn’t in its popular stages, so I normally include editor feedback in rejection/ acceptance letters. I expect that will change, if and when we become more popular.
I have, myself, received requests for edits to a poem.
I’ve also received a kind rejection from a lit mag; they said they couldn’t accept the poem because they received a lot of them, but volunteered to send feedback if I wanted it. I took it, of course.
There are several variations to the acceptance+edits letter. Sometimes, though not often, the acceptance is contingent upon agreeing to certain copy changes. Sometimes, as with your example, the acceptance and the edits arrive together. Most often, in my experience, the acceptance and/or contract arrives well before the copyedited ms. You’ve already made the sale, so this isn’t the time to turn into a diva and queer the deal.
(A request for revision is another matter entirely and deserving of its own post.)
Explaining why you disagree with an editor’s suggested changes isn’t the only way to deal with them. Sometimes, especially if you think you understand why the editor is suggesting a change, you can counter with an alternative suggestion. For example, I had an editor break a particularly long sentence into two shorter sentences, starting the second sentence with “It.” This bothered me for two reasons: I preferred the longer sentence, and I strive to avoid starting sentences with “It.” After contemplation, though, I realized his goal was to improve readability (alas, not everyone likes long sentences!), so I revised his revision, removing the dreaded “it,” and we were both satisfied with my solution.
And sometimes you have to stet the changes and explain an obscure fact. For example, a female copy editor once wanted to change a reference to a male character’s “rep tie” to a “red tie,” thinking it was a typo. Men who wear ties as part of their day job know (or should know) what a rep tie is. But not everyone does.
Another copyeditor, this one a city slicker, questioned my use of “beer window” to describe a window on a pickup truck, thinking it a typo for “rear window.” Living as I do in a place where it appears to be a state law that every household must own at least one pickup truck, I had to school him on the local terminology.
(Copyeditors don’t know everything, and each of us has some bit of knowledge unique to our occupation, education, geographic location, and so on that we bring to our writing.)
And with that, I see I’ve drifted a bit off topic, so I’ll wrap it up.
Aeryn, have you ever rejected a rewrite offer because you didn’t like any of the changes the editor(s) suggested?
In my experience most changes that editors request are perfectly reasonable, and I don’t have a problem modifying the story to accommodate them. But every once in a blue moon I’ll get a rewrite request that makes me wonder if the editor isn’t living on another planet.
Several years ago, I got a rewrite request on a humor piece. The editor said it made them laugh a lot, but then they complained that it tried to run too much on laughs and didn’t have enough internal conflict. WTF? I thought if a comedy made you laugh, then it was successful. And as for internal conflict, I wasn’t going for that kind of story. The editor offered to look at it again, but I didn’t even bother because I felt certain that nothing I did would please that editor. Later on, I sold it with no changes.
Thankfully, though, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
No, I’ve been lucky; my experiences with editors have been universally good. That said, I’ve heard stories like yours from writer friends a lot.