Eventually, you start suspecting the editor has either killed your story or lost it. Or you think that the editor realized his or her mistake in accepting the story in the first place. Or maybe the editor has been replaced. And maybe you're even getting pretty upset about the lack of contact.
What can a writer do to get some answers without burning a bridge and getting put on some kind of editorial black list?
Okay, I'll always consider myself a writer first, but I've been an editor for more than a decade now, which is long enough to have been a problem editor myself from time to time. A key thing to remember is that most editors are human (though that may be changing in the future).
With that in mind, I'd advise all writers to start off by just contacting the editor with an e-mail like this:
A year ago, my story was accepted for publication by your magazine. I turned in the story and returned all the other paperwork requested, but now I realize that I have no idea when the story is supposed to run (so that I can go out and buy a dozen copies). Could you let me know?
If that letter seems pretty simple, it's because this letter is. As an accepted writer, you don't need to start pulling out threats and voicing your frustration in your first contact. That kind of conduct can really burn you in both the short- and long-term. Even if you're annoyed, try to keep it hidden in your first correspondence.
Give the editor a week to respond. I know that in this day and age that a week sounds like forever, but it's not. If you don't receive a response in a week, then follow up with another e-mail. Again, try to hide your annoyance as best as you can, though you can definitely bring up the fact that you sent an e-mail a week previous (just to jog the editor's memory).
Give the editor another week. Then, start calling. Try to get the editor first. If you have to leave a message, just let the editor know that you've sent e-mail messages, and that you just want some kind of response.
If that fails, it's time to try finding someone higher on the editorial food chain. Keep in mind: Once you resort to this tactic, you may have completely severed your relationship with this editor.
As you progress as a freelancer, you'll develop a list of things that you always want clarified up front.
Questions freelancers should ask upon acceptance might include:
- What rights are you purchasing?
- What are the deadlines?
- What is expected at each deadline?
- When will my writing be published?
- How much will I be paid?
- When will I be paid? (And how?)
- Do I receive any comp copies of book and/or magazine?
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Check out these top references for freelancers:
- 2011 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition, edited by Robert Lee Brewer
- Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript, by Chuck Sambuchino
- The Best American Magazine Writing 2010, edited by The American Society of Magazine Editors