Note: Writer, editor and friend Melanie R Meadors just mentioned that she sent a rejection and the writer immediately blocked her on Facebook. Seems like a good day to repost this article from my K Stoddard Hayes blog, first posted October 7, 2012.
All of the following quotes are either real editorial correspondence I have received, or real questions from novice writers on various writing forums (details changed in some cases for anonymity).
I’ve written 17,000 words of a YA romance novel. How much more do I have to write for this genre?
If I tell you that a YA romance is 50,000 words, are you going to write exactly that many words then stop, even if you’re in the middle of a scene? Write and revise the story until you think it’s finished and as good as you can make it. Only then should you worry about which publishers accept novels in your genre, at the length you’ve written.
Here are 5 story ideas. Please tell me which one you like best so I can submit it to your anthology.
An idea is not a story. It’s just an idea, and 20 different writers will turn it into 20 different stories. I can’t tell whether I’m going to like your story on that idea until you write it and I read it.
I know you asked for a 2,000 word article, but I’ve given you 4,000 words because I have a lot of good material on this subject. I will bill you accordingly.
No you won’t. And I don’t have time to edit this, so either cut it down to fit the 4 pages I’ve allowed for 2000 words, or take it elsewhere (and don’t expect me to assign you any more articles).
I have written a heterosexual romance story, but your guidelines are limited to gay and lesbian romance stories, so you’re discriminating against me.
By this reasoning, any editor who asks for stories on a specific subject is discriminating against everyone who has a story on a different subject. Editors form their guidelines for a lot of different reasons, including “things we think will sell, things that fit our publishing profile, things we like to read ourselves.” If you don’t like my editorial guidelines, find another editor whose guidelines match what you write.
Here’s a poem that matches the theme of your anthology.
Did you read the guidelines? This is a short story anthology.
I may not write good English, but my article is so excellent you should be happy to do the edits and turn it into good English for me.
Sorry. If it’s not good English, it’s not an excellent article. (The only exception is if the writer has experience or expertise that is so unusual or otherwise in demand that no one else can write about it. Then his work might be worth editing.)
And an afterthought from 2017: now that social media are widely used in the publishing community, there are many more ways to demonstrate unprofessionalism, such as stalking editors on social media, spamming their social media with promotions for your unsold story, attacking and trolling them for rejections, and many more. All of these will do just as much for a new writer’s career as the examples above.