Readers who rock and bi-polar editors

Yes, as if you didn’t already know it, you’re a great bunch. Emails and comments, all advising and supporting me in my dilemma, have made the past few days a real joy. Perhaps it’s the isolation of writing for a living that makes such (relatively) small problems loom so large, but you certainly helped me restore my perspective. I’m taking three routes through the problem:

1 – writing to the accounts department of the publication with a registered letter so they can’t say they didn’t get it, asking for them to pay me
2 – asking their major funder what they think I should do. I suspect the funder will be very surprised to discover this has happened
3 – preparing my case for a Money Claim Online, which is the updated version of going to the Small Claims Court (it costs £30, which would make a hole in my fee, but it’s better than getting nothing) and is the last resort in cases like this.

And once all that is done, I shall contact Writer’s Weekly with my experience so that the information can be shared with all the writers who subscribe – if you don’t get their newsletter, it’s really worth it, just for the whispers and warnings, of which my sad story is just one.

Now, bi-polar editors – one email asked if I’d ever had this experience ‘when you see a submission call and you send something and the editor asks for revisions and you got on really well, first name terms and all that, and then a few weeks later when you send the revisions, it’s back to Mr. X and the cold shoulder and you wonder what you did wrong …’

I have had it, and I fear I’ve probably done it myself, and the explanation is very simple. At the beginning of a submission call, you get two types of submission trickling in:
1. excellent subs that just happen to be lying around when the writer reads your call and that match your needs more or less exactly
2. rubbish, written in green ink on graph paper.

Because there is only a trickle at this point, editors can engage with the writers in the first group and have the luxury of time to build relationships.

Fast forward two months – now the trickle is a torrent and the submissions are much more variable – there are many more borderline ones that need proper reading and an informed decision and other pressures are coming to bear; similar stories have to be compared to each other so that the publication is not to ‘samey’, the managing editor’s favourite writers suddenly have to be fast-tracked and your fellow editor drops out, leaving you with double the work. The stories you asked writers to revise turn up and by this point you have only the vaguest memory of what you asked for and why … and you’ve completely forgotten that you were on the way to becoming buddies! It’s all you can do to send back an acknowledgement, and it never occurs to you that your one line response may strike confusion and unhappiness into the heart of the poor writer with whom you were once getting on so well …


  1. Anonymous
    29th January 2008

    Yes, I’ve been on the end of a bi-polar editor experience. The dashing of hopes was dreadful, as was the Kafka’esqe frustration, and I won’t send to that magazine again, even now you’ve shown me how it can happen Kay 🙂

    Mark Hubbard

  2. AG
    30th January 2008

    Hey Kay: Congrats on creating such a level-headed plan to deal with that non-payment. Thanks for sharing your strategy. Very useful!


  3. Shameless
    31st January 2008

    Your steps here seem appropriate. How awful to have this experience. 🙂


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