By: Noelle Sterne
“Thank the editor,” you’re wondering, “for what? An editor is my sworn enemy, whose bastions must be stormed and armies of red-pen-wielding assistants vanquished for the cherished prize of publication.”
Maybe your metaphors are a little tamer, but you probably feel this way at different times because . . .
- You’ve deluged editors with floods of submissions, but no editor has published you, and you’re sure none ever will.
- Your countless drafts and sending to numerous publications of a 200-word piece finally reaped a small magazine’s acceptance.
- Four months after the piece appeared, you received a whopping payment of two contributor’s copies, which arrived in your mailbox folded like a limp accordion. When, hands shaking, you opened to your page, a printing error obscured nine-tenths of your name.
Such blunders and disappointments are inevitable. But whether you get paid in dollars, copies, a six-month subscription, or an autographed picture of the editor’s twin Dobermans, thanking the editor makes sense for several sound reasons:
1. It’s polite.
Okay, admittedly weak. You may have abandoned this reason for any circumstance the moment you left your parents’ house. Keep reading.
2. It’s thoughtful.
We writers are prone to self-pity and narcissism: we’re unappreciated geniuses, the publishing world is against us, the hacks get the breaks, etc., etc. By thanking the editor, you’re going beyond your self-absorbed world and extending yourself to one of the people who matter most in your writing world.
3. Thanking the editor says you realize editors are people too.
They toil so we can have a vehicle for our writing, boast to friends and relatives (especially our fancy-attorney big sister), and chalk up another notch on our resumes. Don’t editors deserve a little recognition and appreciation?
4. Thanking the editor acknowledges the partnership.
We tend to have a love-hate relationship with editors. Sometimes we feel we’d do anything to get them to publish us, even to cutting the guts out of our most labored-over, beloved creation. Sometimes we’re sure they’ll never publish a writer who slides in on the slush pile. We’re certain they have a stash of in-house writers chained in the basement, hollow-eyed and starving, feverishly grinding out everything that ever appears in the magazine. Sometimes we think editors exist only to torment us with the dreaded R [Rejected] word or one of its supposedly-cushioning euphemisms (“We receive 100,000 submissions daily . . Not quite the right fit . . . Doesn’t work for us . . . “).
When we thank the editor, we neutralize all this erroneous, self-defeating, and egotistical thinking.
5. Thanking the editor is politically savvy.
The editor will remember your thoughtfulness and likely regard your next submission with kinder, gentler eyes. At least you’ll get to the top of the pile faster. And when you submit after you’re published, which should be very soon after, you can refer to your letter of gratitude.
Some writers, building on the editor’s good judgment in the current publication, attach the next submission with the thank you letter for the first—an excellent idea. See the sample letter at the end of this article.
6. You can always find something to thank the editor for.
I do not mean how well your published piece reads. Praise of your words should come from the droves of readers who write in thanking the editor for publishing your piece.
Instead, you can find many things to extol: the layout, the headings, when, or where in the publication your piece appears, that cute cartoon near the title, the judicious editing of your 500-word bio, or, if you’re really scraping, the font style. See sample below.
7. Thanking the editor feels good.
Relating to number 2 above, thoughtful acts feel good. Getting out of yourself feels good. And the universal law applies: when we give, in this case, a thank you note, we receive in return. We receive not only a good feeling, but a possibly more favorable reading of our next submission, a more simpatico relationship, and certainly a greater sense of equality and mastery.
8. When you thank the editor, you’re thanking yourself.
This is the most important reason. Your note is a letter to yourself. It says, “I am a professional. I am a writer. I have a file of letters to editors who have published my work (or will soon). Many famous writers have received scathing rejection letters. I’m part of the community of writers and editors.” Now how do you feel?
So, thanking the editor is more than a pandering gesture or another endless administrative task keeping you from your writing. Instead, it’s a lesson in self-worth, expansiveness, and professional empowerment. At the least, it’s an opportunity to produce a sincere little gem.
If you’re not published yet? Write the letter anyway. You don’t have to mail it. Make files with the names of each publication you crave to get into and the editor, call them “Correspondence,” and put your letter in it. When you write it, you’ll be “acting as if,” visualizing in advance the outcome you desire. With consistent application of butt to chair and fingers to keyboard, this is one of the most direct actions you can take toward reaching your dream of publishing.
When, on that miraculous day, you open the issue and see your byline and piece staring back at you (with no typos), you’ll be ready. Your letter of thanks will speed from your typing fingers to the editor’s desk, eyes, and heart.
A Sample Letter Thanking the Editor
This letter is a model for your own. Change the details as applicable. The numbers in bold following each paragraph refer to the explanatory notes after the letter.
Priscilla Powerful, Editor
Writer’s Last Hope
450 Scrivener’s Way
WriteOn, WA 98038
Dear Ms. Powerful:
I appreciate receiving the four copies of the June issue of Writer’s Last Hope in payment for publication of my article, “Don’t Feel Licked: Keep Hoping to Your Last Stamp.” (1)
How exciting to see this article featured in the front [back, middle, last page] of the magazine. The striking layout effectively highlights the main points for the reader. (2)
I found your editorial, “What’s the Use of Keeping On Keeping On?” not only enlightening but inspiring. I’m sure this piece will also help many other writers who are your readers. (3)
Toward further helping your readers, I enclose another piece for your consideration. For writers who are sick from overexposure to rejection slips, my
600-word “Blow Your Nose and Reboot Your Laptop” offers encouraging hints. (4)
I have shared your publication with many writing friends. Your dedication continues to provide much-needed hope to both beginning and more experienced writers. (5)
By the way, congratulations on your second-place award in the annual Northwestern Conference of Small Writing Magazines Published on Shoestrings. (6)
In eternal writing hope,
Your preferred email address. (7)
1. Identify the payment, issue, and your piece by name.
2. Specify the reasons for your thanks. Don’t lay it on too thick. One or two points are enough.
3. Compliment something else in the issue, preferably something by the editor. Next choice: a major feature (not yours). (See also 6.)
4. Jump on the bandwagon. Press your advantage. What’s to lose?
5. This is a more global compliment, reporting increased circulation to the editor and doubtless boosting her faith in her publication.
6. An alternative or addition to 3.
Author, editor, writing coach, writing and meditation workshop leader, spiritual counselor, Noelle has published over 600 writing craft articles, spiritual pieces, essays, short stories, and occasional poems.
Author Magazine, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children’s Book Insider, Coffeehouse For Writers, Funds for Writers, InnerSelf, Inside Higher Ed, Mused, New Age Journal, Pen & Prosper, Ruminate, Sasee, Story Monsters Ink, Thesis Whisperer, Transformation Coaching, The Write Place At the Write Time, Unity Magazine, Writer’s Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, The Writer, and Writer’s Digest.
Academic mentor, editor and coach, with the Ph.D. from Columbia University, she helps doctoral students wrestling with their dissertations and publishes articles in several blogs for dissertation writers. Noelle has delivered requested presentations on academic writing at several universities and is a regular contributor to Abstract, the blog of the Textbook and Academic Authors Association (TAA).
She also contributes pieces to other national and international publications on dissertation issues and writing. In July and August 2018, she, was one of six webinar presenters for its “Writing Gym.” Her topic: “Get Started, Continue Your Draft, and Finish.”
Eons ago, she published a children’s book of original (groanworthy) dinosaur riddles, Tyrannosaurus Wrecks (What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?). Riddles from the book appear in several elementary school language arts texts, and the book was featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow.
A Chicken Soup for the Soul podcast (May 16, 2017) featured her story “Time to Say Goodbye” from a 2013
Noelle’s book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011) contains examples from her practice, writing, and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach lifelong yearnings.
Her book Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2015) is an invaluable resource for doctoral candidates.
As part of pursuing her writing dream, Noelle’s mission is to help other writers reach theirs and create the lives they truly desire.
Taking her own advice (hard as it may be), she recently completed her first novel.
Author, Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal and Spiritual Struggles
Columnist, Textbook and Academic Authors Association
Columnist, Two Drops of Ink
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
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