Dear Medium publishers, do not request my story if you’re not going to respond to my follow-up emails. I work very hard on every piece that I write, and I take my writing seriously.
You should take it seriously too.
What I Want to Know
Any time someone requests to put one of my stories in a publication, there are some things I want to know. These are:
1. When will you want me to submit it?
Some publications want to wait a certain amount of time before publishing and some do not. I don’t want my piece just floating out there in the ether. If you want to wait and push it out later, let me know so I can plan for that.
2. Will you want to change anything, and how will we agree upon that?
I’m very particular about what I write and how it’s written. I have no issue with altering it a little to fit the publication’s desires, but I want to know how the process goes. Is it casual and easy, or are you going to act like my boss? (Hint: this is not the right way to persuade me.)
3. What kinds of things will you want to change?
Every publication is different and has certain things they want to project. I respect that. But I need to know what sorts of things in my piece you might want to change. Are they stylistic things, title or header changes, or will you want to change something that now affects the overall message of the piece?
Some style things I can do to part with, others I will not — it just depends on the piece and the message. And it depends on how accepting and respectful you are of my style as a writer. If the article in question just cannot be morphed to fit the publication, perhaps we can collaborate together on an idea for a new piece that is exactly what you’re looking for. But never try to force anything.
4. How’s your grammar?
Grammar is extremely important to me. I am obsessive about the need for grammatical correctness, so make sure your publication seeks to make sure every piece is grammatically well-written — I want to be in the company of other competent writers.
It nonetheless is a tricky play because phrasing and writing can sometimes be grammatically incorrect even if it is colloquially correct (for example, if I’m writing an informal piece and use the phrase “I wanna”). As an editor of a publication, I expect you to be able to identify the difference between colloquially correct phrasing and straight grammatically incorrect sentence structure.
5. Who has the final say?
It’s your publication and you decide what’s good enough to go in; I respect that. But this is such an important question because of how Medium is set up. Once a piece is submitted and accepted into a publication, it’s open to the editor to edit as they see fit. This is one reason I’m extremely picky about who I work with.
Based on the questions above, I want to know who will have the final say. If you want my piece to say one thing and I want it to say another, I want to know if you’re just going to go over my head and edit my post without my knowledge or consent. I’m much more likely to continue to submit to your publication regularly if you respect my ability to say, “I’m not sure I want to edit this piece like that, but perhaps we could do another piece together.”
What a Request for My Story Should Look Like
This is a conversation I had with an interested editor during July. Notice how the person was extremely accommodating to my questions and patient when providing the answers. This is how a request for my story or collaboration should go:
My email, after the initial request for my story:
My further response, and the beginning of a working relationship:
That’s how your requests should pan out if I have questions.
A Response Email Takes Five Minutes
In writing and publishing, as well as in every other part of life, it’s about the relationship that’s cultivated.
This is especially important if you’re asking me for material with an understanding that there will be no monetary compensation.
There have been a lot of great pieces recently on freelance writers and not writing for free or for “simple exposure.” Personally, I think think this is an individual choice for each writer. At this point in my career, I’m ok with it, as long as what I get out of it in the end is a solid relationship with real opportunities for networking and exposure. If you tell me you’re going to give me exposure, then do it: tweet about my article, and tag me so that I can continue to build my writing reputation.
Not Answering My Follow-up Email
Because these are some of the basic things I consider when I’m writing a piece, requesting my piece and not emailing me back about my questions tells me:
- a. You’re not serious about really wanting my piece
- b. You don’t care how I feel about my piece as a writer
- And/or c. My piece isn’t important enough to you to send me a simple response email
Time is valuable, and I don’t expect you to answer all of the above (and any further questions I might have) in one sitting. You don’t need to write me a book of a response, but really, a response email acknowledging my questions takes five minutes. My time is valuable too. If you want to work with me, then work with me, and treat my time as a writer as equally important as I treat yours as an editor/publisher.
Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!