#SaysTheEditor: Don’t Dress to Impress


It dawned on me the other day that when interviewing an editor who requests a sample, one of the worst things you can do is send something that’s really polished up and in great shape.


Because you’re not trying to dazzle your potential editor with your brilliance. If you’re that brilliant, you don’t need an editor!

What you’re trying to do is get a feel for the editor’s style. Do they notice things that are important to you? (If all they do is grouse about the color red you’ve chosen, for instance, and ignore the fact that Xavier the hero is staggering around the field with a sword run through his mid-section and a zombie is dragging him down from the back while it sucks on his brain, yet he’s holding the hand of the fair maiden who is leading him through a waltz in a field of daisies, and her long, flowing dress is completely devoid of bloodstains — but you needed to make sure that your book doesn’t read like an acid trip, well… you’ve probably found the wrong editor.)

Do you like the way your potential editor talks to you? Maybe you don’t like getting comments in the track changes comment field that read, “Why isn’t the maiden’s dress covered in blood? Wouldn’t there be spatter from the zombie’s antics? How can Xavier still be upright if the zombie’s pulling him backward, the better to get his brain?”

In order to get a feel for what the editor can do for you, don’t send your best work. Send work that’s still rough. Oh, not the first draft that you haven’t read over or run spell check on. (Although that’s a good way to alienate a potential editor. I can spot first draft quality at two lines.)

So yeah, there’s a balance. Not your the first draft that’s full of word puke on the page. But not your best.

In other words, send what you are ready to improve. Seek that hard, cold feedback that may sting at first but, once you’re a veteran writer, will encourage you and get your creativity flowing. You’re a professional, right? Seek out the constructive criticism.

But don’t dress to impress. You’re not paying your editor to praise you to the skies. You’re paying your editor so your readers will do that.

Besides, why would you wear a long, flowing gown and dance in a field of daisies while your man’s staggering around, impaled on a sword and with a zombie sucking on his brain?

(Get the metaphor? Do you?)


1 Comment

  1. Dana Griffin

    March 2, 2015 12:25 pm

    Got it. Do not send Susan my best work. 🙂 Oh, wait, you meant for my editorial test. Oh! Darn, I thought I could use that excuse for every submission.

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