What Not to Say to an Editor

Query letters and elevator pitches are designed to get an editor to look at your project. What not to say is every bit as important as what to include.

Use the guidelines
Lin Johnson, editor of the Christian Communicator, Advanced Christian Writer, and Church Libraries, runs each query she receives through a well-defined litmus test.

“Don’t propose a topic that doesn’t fit the periodical,” Johnson says. “That tells me you haven’t studied my magazine (or guidelines). That’s a guaranteed rejection.”

Do your homework
Publishers market to targeted readers. While most writers know not to send a children’s book manuscript to a publisher that does not produce projects for young people, there are other areas to steer clear of.

“I cringe whenever I see ‘there’s nothing else like it on the market,’” says Nick Harrison, Harvest House editor. “First, if there’s truly nothing else like it, there’s probably a reason. Second, there usually is something else out there like it, and the author is showing his or her ignorance by not being aware of the competition.”

Watch what you say
Ann Parrish, an editor at Bethany House Publishers, loses interest when a writer claims, “The Lord told me your company is the one to publish my book.”

Other statements that do not make friends and influence editors:

  • “It’s an instant bestseller.”
  • “This is the next Left Behind series.”
  • “This is the Christian Harry Potter (or Twilight).”
  • “My mom (spouse, children, critique group, parrot) loves this, so I know you will too.”

Integrity is critical
Don’t put words in an endorser’s mouth. “My pet peeve is when someone writes, ‘Doc Hensley thought it was wonderful,’” says Dennis E. Hensley, author and director of the Professional Writing Department at Taylor University. “In fact, I said it had potential but needed a lot of copyediting and revision.”

Errors like these flag you as an amateur. Editors and publishers are drawn to writers who present their ideas—and themselves—professionally.

React: What errors have you made in dealing with editors or agents? What did you learn from that experience?

PeggySue Wells is the author of a dozen titles including What To Do When You’re Scared To Death, and Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After.


  1. says

    I have not dealt with any editors or agents. I just attended and joined Word Weavers-Greenville chapter this month. Public speaking used to frighten me because of the fear of not connecting with the audience and I have found that the closer I get to putting my book together, I am really nervous.

  2. Natalie Hidalgo says

    I have had my manuscript read and had my first editorial review. I think my mistake was not having thick skin. I allowed his lack of enthusiasm convince me that the story had no value. It was shelved for a year. I know the Lord can use this story and am starting the rewrite. Since grade school I have struggled so much with sentence structure and grammar. I have near panic attacks trying to comprehend proper grammar, and have let that fear keep me from going forward.

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