Meet Miss Crankypants~

I have a good friend (who also happens to be a great writer) who you really must meet. I call her Linda, but she won’t mind if you call her Miss Crankypants.  She says, “I gripe so you don’t have to.”  Enjoy today’s guest post!

What Do Editors Really Want? A Ratings System!

One of my writing students was all excited. She’d self-pubbed her first book and written a memoir, and stood pitching it to an editor at a writing conference. Editor confessed that the student’s memoir was a tough sell (in editorspeak, No way, Jose), but what if she designed a women’s devotional on the same topic? Now, THAT he’d be interested in seeing. “Write 12 of these devotions and send me the proposal,” editor said.

Long story short, she hired me to whip a proposal into shape per Editor’s specifications. She and I were both satisfied with the results. She sent her work in and received a quick turnaround email: Sorry, Editor wasn’t as enthusiastic as he needed to be about Student’s project. Student considered taking up knitting instead of writing.

This scenario happens more often than it should. Even seasoned writers latch on to what they believe is genuine enthusiasm for a project, only to learn that their stuff was never really in the running. Once I sent a novel to an editor I know personally, who requested my work and was excited to read an historical by me. A week later Editor claimed the company was only looking for contemporary novels. Say what?

Maybe we all need a rating system to gauge Editors’ reactions, something like the old American Bandstand TV dance show. Songs, not dancers, were evaluated by participants who rated rock and roll classics on stuff like “the beat,” “danceability” and other properties. An editor could respond to my proposal or manuscript on a scale from one to ten, ten being “your story is cool and I will try to get it through committee.” A five would indicate, “Your stuff is great but to be honest, this is a book I myself plan to write and you haven’t got a chance.” That I could live with.

Editors can’t afford to pass up the one story that is the next bestseller, so they cheat by feigning enthusiasm for stuff they know in advance they can’t use. And writers do their best to interpret the smallest positive response as a shoo-in for publication. I wish both would be a bit more realistic, so writers wouldn’t get their egos bruised and editors would still find the diamond among all the dirt clods. At least I’d know whether the historical that just got turned down had a good beat you could dance to.

 Linda Clare (AKA: Miss Writerly Crankypants)

Read more of Linda’s blog posts at: 

The Fence My Father Built goes to


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11 responses to “Meet Miss Crankypants~

  1. There’s another element that plays into the scene, too. Sometimes an editor IS excited to see that historical, gets home from the conference, and hears from higher up the ladder that the company is backing off on historicals for a while. So many layers to the process! So many variables. So many great proposals that fall just shy of making an editor’s heart sing! Or in this case, dance.

  2. Yes, Cynthia, you are so right. Many, many variables. It’s important that we writers remember that.

  3. Thanks for having me on your blog, Kay. I may be cranky but I know writers and eds can tangle if we try. Linda

  4. Come back anytime, Linda. It’s great to have someone gripe in our place so we don’t have to~!

  5. Jeanette

    The title of this post and the tagline for Linda’s blog cracked me up on a morning when I really needed to laugh. I think she just found a new stalker . . . I mean follower/fan.

    I have learned to take editor enthusiasm with a huge chunk of rock salt, especially at conferences where many are being extra nice. I’ve reached a point where I’d rather here a polite no up front, go sulk in my room for awhile, and get over it than spend months crafting a proposal or manuscript only to discover that it never had the “Wow” factor to begin with. Still, after getting to know many editors as friends, I don’t envy their position at all! I can’t imagine sitting across from one eager writer after another, many of whom have great ideas, knowing that my response will make or break their day but I also have a pub board to answer to. Yikes! Exactly why God did not call me to be an editor.

    Thanks Kay and Linda!

    • You are so right, Jeanette. I too feel for editors at conferences. It’s hard to look into desperate eyes and not say something hopeful. Still, it’s terrible to spend a bunch of time fleshing out something for which there never was much interest.

      P.S. I know Linda will love having you stalk… er, follow her.

  6. Jean

    Thanks for that introduction, Kay, and the info…makes me feel better, and YOU always do. Love…

  7. Great post, Miss Crankypants! 🙂 I’m with you on wanting editors to hold up a numbered sign. I would rather know the cold hard truth than spend months hoping, preparing, expecting. We writers are emotional roller coasters as it is, we don’t editors polite responses contributing to our highs and lows… 😉

  8. Timmer

    I bet it’s hard to work on something for so long and find out that it’s not what editors are really looking for. I’m sure it can be very frustrating and exhausting… But do you remember your New Years resolution to write more? I think God wants you all to keep your heads up. Stay at it, and eventually YOU WILL find that “diamond amongst the dirt clods”!

    • So far, everyone is in agreement. We would rather have the truth, however much it may hurt at the time, than have false hopes built up.

      • Timmer

        I agree. The truth is so important to all aspects of life, including writing. I am not an avid or published writer, but I know that hopes can be easily dashed…
        When I was attending college, I wrote papers that I thought were an easy A+. When they were finally graded and returned to me, I came to find out that I still had a lot to learn about writing solid papers. My teachers would tell me to revise and re-write like I had ALMOST impressed them, but I often never attained the greatness in my writing that I was looking for.
        I remember my poetry teacher telling me about his giant filing cabinet filled with rejection letters from editors and agents. I guess that image helped me understand that writing is definitely not easy, and you basically have to WALK the gauntlet before something great happens. You have to spend your nights and days slaving away to attain your dream of success.
        I too would have liked an honest answer in the beginning, to save me from the pain of rejection. I can only imagine how much it starts to hurt people that have tried so many times, and with their best material to boot. But remember, that’s why they call it “fishing” and not “catching”. Keep up the good work! 🙂

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