Editors Are Not Supervillains

Contrary to the opinion of any number of beginning writers, editors are not supervillains hunched over their desks scheming fresh ways to crush the souls of unpublished writers.

In point of fact, they are deeply invested in your success. The only person in the world who is anywhere as close to as invested in that story of yours being a work of undiscovered genius as you and your most supportive friends and family are is the editor who is about to read it. Trust me on this.

First off, the editor is dying for something new and good to read. They have just read bits of several stories that are so bad they want to claw their eyeballs out, and have done so knowing that, that which has been seen can never be unseen. They have read any number of stories that are meh at great cost in time, and they have read a few that were so close that they were holding their breaths and rooting for this author to make it across the line, only to have it go flat at the end. This is no fun. Successful stories are.

Second, they make what little money they make in this industry by publishing successful stories. If you send them an awesome story, you are helping them buy lunch. This is a very good thing when you’re a starving editor and not trivial.

Third, the discoverer of new talent gets some of the credit for that talent. The bigger the talent the more reflected glory there is. Discovering the next Nnedi Okorafor or Jim Hines gives you major editorial bragging rights. And if you find the next Neil Gaiman, well: Wiktory!

Fourth, and most important, editors edit because they love the field. The slush pile is not a fun place to dig, and finding a gem there is cause for major celebration. I know a lot of editors, and watching their faces light up when they talk about helping to launch the career of some new writer whose work they can love is a truly joyful experience. They know exactly how hard it is to make it in this world, and how much it will mean to that undiscovered writer to have the validation of that first acceptance letter. They know they are going to make a writer’s day, or maybe even their whole year, and they absolutely love that they get to do that. It is one of the things that keeps editors going on the bad days.

The editor is not your enemy. They want you to succeed, desperately and sincerely.