Believing that editors are rude is much like believing that people are rude — most are not, but a very few are.
But really this is about all sorts of editorly behaviour which is taken to be rude by writers new to the game of writing.
Being ignored by editors is widely perceived to be peak rude, of course.
Not acknowledging a pitch, not rejecting an article, not accepting an idea. Rudeness like no other, right?
Not responding, full stop. RUDE.
It’s not rude. I’ve said it before, but will repeat: editors are busy, and are under no obligation to respond to your offer of services, in much the same way that you are under no obligation to respond to marketing mail.
If you’re thinking ‘manners cost nothing’ then you’re wrong.
In this case, they cost the editor time to do her job; they cost him time to spend with his family. Some editors get hundreds of emails a day. Not all will be articles or article ideas, granted, but still if they replied to every one, they’d have little time to edit.
Or to have a life.
When might they actually be rude to you?
The odds begin to increase if you commit any of the following misdemeanours:
1/ Getting their name / publication wrong
2/ ‘Hi there’ / ‘Dear Editor’
3/ Demonstrating beyond doubt to never having read the publication.
4/ Making demands (‘my rates are £x per 1,000 and non-negotiable’ / ‘please respond within 48 hours’)
Do several and on a bad day I might give you short shrift, as well — and I’m an absolute delight.
While giving writing advice to a friend recently, I was reminded of an editor for whom I used to work and from whom I learned a lot, who would fire me brisk emails that appeared to spare no thought for my feelings.
“Intro boring — rewrite”. That was one of them, in response to a submission.
(The intro was boring. I did rewrite. Pretty quickly too.)
I met that editor for coffee on a number of occasions, and she was never rude. She now writes about a controversial subject, is a prominent figure in that area, and is subjected to a lot of rudeness online, but I’ve never once seen her return in kind.
Editing is a job. Publishing is a business. Admittedly, there are harder jobs and tougher businesses. And I’m not going to tell you to toughen up, because how you wish to be as a person is entirely up to you, and how you wish to react to some of the situations described here is, again, entirely your call.
But editors are trying to do their often stressful jobs in an often stressful business.
Consider keeping that in mind, as you travel the writing road ahead.
And expect to be regularly — unrudely — ignored.
Found this mistake useful? There are lots more on dealing with editors in the second of my ‘Mistakes Writers Make’ guides — 50 More Mistakes Beginner Writers Make — available via Amazon worldwide.