What Not To Do

What NOT to Do: Spam query a freelance editor

[dropcap]D[/dropcap] ON’T send an impersonal bulk email with your synopsis and first chapter, a.k.a. SPAM.

spam: unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses


There are two very good reasons for this.

1. Spam filters love mass emails that open with “Hello!” (notice the lack of a name next to the greeting) 

  • don’t expect spam filters to tell the difference between “my name is___, and I am looking for an editor” and “my name is___, and I am looking someone to send 5 million dollars to”
  • don’t expect a timely response—how often do you check your spam folder?

2. Editors expect that you have narrowed down your choicesyes, we can see the “undisclosed recipients” or other obvious text in the To: line

  • yes, we can tell you didn’t use our name
  • yes, we’re busy too—if you expect a free sample edit, we expect you to have a short enough list that you know our names and actually care about the response you might get
  • yes, it’s crazy, but we do think that we’re chosen because authors researched us and want to work with us (noodle/wall approach devalues what we do quite a bit)

As someone that doesn’t keep a waiting list and doesn’t load up on projects (I gotta write too!), I want to work with people that actually want me. Editors want to believe that your choice of editor matters to you. Your list of initial queries should be short enough that you’re choosing to make sure I get a personalized query along with the other editors on your short list.

If an editor feels like 1 of 30 on your list that you pulled from someone’s compiled list of editors, they probably won’t respond. Would you respond to someone that appears to not really care which editor replies? Some would, true. But not my thoughtful readers. 🙂

DO know your potential editor’s name, and use it in your query.

DO go to editor websites to check rates and sample requirements. Editor’s are definitely going to Amazon and Barnes & Noble to read your samples, reviews, and blogs to know what they’re getting, so be sure you’re doing the same.

DO value your potential editor’s time as much as you value your own.

DO follow up if you don’t hear a response. Always assume good intentions. Emails get lost in the digital ether frequently, spam filters get extra hungry, emails are accidentally deleted, and sometimes emails and responses just slip through the cracks somehow. Don’t feel like you need to nudge more than once, but give the editor the benefit of the doubt one time before you hit delete. This is different from a publishing or agent submission where you may need to nudge a few times. Querying for fee-based services should require that you only need to nudge once before moving on. Your time is as valuable as ours.

Start a relationship with editors by showing that you care. You’ll likely find you’re in need of more than one editor, so even the editors you pass on should feel good about your exchanges. It’s all about networking, after all. Professionalism is never frowned upon.

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Cheryl Murphy is Asian with brown hair in a single braid and a smirk.

ACES: the society for editing


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