Patience Is A Virtue

To everyone who sends a contribution for the magazine.

I’m fully aware that your article is important to you. I’ve been there myself, waiting for a response to something I’ve sent to a magazine. You have invested time and effort in creating your well-crafted submission, and you are naturally anxious about its fate. And then there’s silence, and your imagination starts to fill in the gaps.

Is the Editor sitting there, brooding over your submission, deliberately making you stew in your own juices? Does he like it? Is he going to publish it? Did it somehow go astray between you pressing ‘Send’ and it arriving in his inbox? Is it in a pile gathering e-dust somewhere? You’ve heard nothing for an hour/all day/several days/weeks now! This is torture! You decide you can’t stand it any longer, so you decide to chase it up, and let him know how cross you are!”

Bad idea.

Every Editor is different, and each one is an inividual with their specific challenges, but I’ve yet to meet one who isn’t rushed off their feet and working silly hours just to cope. The fact is, the job description pretty much entails being incredibly busy, all the time, so I’m not asking for sympathy (hey, it was my choice!), but it might help you to understand what’s happening behind the scenes.

I not only edit Miniature Wargames with Battlegames, I do the design and layout too. I’m also involved with marketing the magazine, which is why you see me popping up all over the place, announcing the arrival of the latest issue and telling you what’s coming next and generally making myself known online and at shows. You might have noticed that I have also had a book published recently, and as every author in today’s world discovers, it’s my responsibility to do 95% of the marketing for that as well. I also have my graphic design, web design and copywriting and editing business behind the scenes, with clients justifiably demanding my time and attention. Don’t get me started on the publishers asking me to write another book…

Secondly, you’d have to see my email inbox to believe it. It’s an increasing problem in our digital world. Like millions of people, I’m finding that it’s a struggle for me to keep up with the number of legitimate emails I get, without people adding to it by chasing the previous email they sent – sometimes on multiple occasions. I wish I could afford an assistant to deal with this sort of thing – but I can’t, so please think twice about adding to my already stuffed inbox. If something is genuinely urgent, please pick up the phone!

Thirdly, the best way to overcome your anxiety about an article you’ve sent in is to write another one. And another. If there’s one kind of contributor that an editor loves, it’s a regular contributor. The more articles you write, the better you’ll get at it, the more the Editor will notice you and the more of your work will be published. You’ll stop worrying about any one individual piece, because you’re building up a body of work and a reputation, both with the readership and with the editor for reliability.

And finally, don’t take it personally. I have just over four weeks on average to get one issue out the door and then put together a brand new one and have to make judgements ‘on the fly’ about the content of one. Events may shift what I was intending to put into a particular issue, or the balance might need to be changed from what I had planned for any one of a thousand reasons. What I need, as an editor, is an armoury of articles and lovely photos to choose from. So, if your article doesn’t appear as soon as you might like, or even for some time, please don’t for one instant think that there’s anything wrong with your article, and certainly not with you personally or with your skill as a contributor. It just wasn’t the right piece for that issue.

Where I do try to respond quickly is when I get an enquiry from someone who would like to contribute, or has an idea, but needs some guidance. It still really helps if you do the following:

  • Read the Contributors’ Guidelines.
  • Read at least two or three previous issues to get the ‘flavour’.
  • Ask yourself whether you really need my advice, or just reassurance. If the latter, count this as your reassurance and just crack on with it!
  • Use, at the very minimum, a spelling and grammar checker. EVERY word processing package has these nowadays, so there’s no excuse. Sending documents littered with basic errors might well be interpreted as indicating that you’re not serious about being published. Asking your mate to give it a quick shuftie also usually isn’t good enough – friends almost never want to upset you by pointing out your shortcomings and are rarely skilled proofreaders themselves.
  • I’m happy to ‘tweak’ and correct minor stuff, but major rewrites are your responsibility. A good tip: write your article, print it out, put it in a drawer, wait a week or (even better) two, pull it out and re-read it. You’ll probably spot loads of things you missed first time. Then send it to me. Obviously, if I’ve commissioned you specifically at very short notice, you’ll have to skip this, but it really, really helps.
  • Cut out the autobiographical intro to get straight into the article. You may have been the one who taught H G Wells how to load his Britains’ cannon and made your own troops from rivets and beeswax with your granddad when you were a lad and were a member of the Stepney East Contemptibles that met once a week in the Munchkin’s Head and used Dave ‘parsnip’ Smith’s ACW naval rules because his brother was sunk by a U-Boat in 1940, but unless you’ve been specifically commissioned to write a piece because that’s a point of interest, the sad fact is that nobody really wants to see that in magazines these days – you’re better off getting yourself a blog for that kind of stuff.
  • Don’t be scared about possible criticism if/when your article is published. As a wise man once said, “If you want to avoid all criticism, simply say nothing, do nothing, be nothing”. Courage, mon brave!
  • Remember that at all times, my job is to help you look good. I go to great lengths to present the articles in MWBG in the best possible light. We are not on opposite sides: we are part of the same team.

So, if I have said that I will deal with something, I will deal with it, even if it takes me a while to get round to it – even if it’s the uncomfortable necessity of sending a polite rejection. (I refer the reader back to “Don’t take it personally” above…) If you put any editor on the spot to make a decision right here, right now, when they’re not ready, then that decision is likely to be “Go elsewhere”. The the best policy is to be patient and bide your time. Besides, it’s unlikely that writing articles for wargame magazines is your primary source of income – we just don’t pay well enough! – so keep things in perspective and get on with your life and your hobby whilst your article makes its way to the top of the pile.

There’s an old saying in publishing: “Make the Editor your friend”. The way to do that is to help him to do his job. I value the effort and anxiety behind every contribution made and I’ll publish your articles as quickly and frequently as I can, and tell you when I’m going to do so, even if it takes me a while.

OK?

Recommendation: buy a good quality magazine that regularly deals with article writing and relationships with editors such as Writing Magazine. I do!

4 comments for “Patience Is A Virtue

  1. August 22, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Good to read as to be not alone as a (more or less patiently waiting) contributor.
    As an editor too (not in wargaming) I have sometimes similar problems and Henry has explained his dilemmas very vivid. Up to now I had avoided to pester Henry (only one follow-up email some month ago), but according to his text it had to be very serious. So I will gather my ideas to make some additional articles for Henry. Only the proofreading-point is a bit of a problem for me as a german-speaking guy. My wife is a excellent proofreader of my own magazin for the last ten years or more, but unfortunatly only in german. So I fear Henry will have some more editing work with my article(s). But this will be also a point for me to make really good and interesting articles that will be worth this extra work for Henry.

    Franz

  2. Phil Dutré
    August 22, 2013 at 6:48 am

    Can we still send you ‘Thank you – good job!’ type of emails? 🙂

    Anyways, I fully understand your position. These days, everyone’s email box gets swamped, and people have different expectations w.r.t. response times. I regularly get emails from my students, followed up by another one 12 hours later – anxiously inquiring whether I received the previous one. Or people intercept me at the coffee-machine, mentioning an email they send that very morning. “I’ll read it when I read it” is my usual response.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Ian
    August 21, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Good points there, I am sure none of us know the lengths you have to go to so well worth reading your post. I wonder what sparked off this article though (maybe it needs including in the next issue?)

    Ian

  4. Huw Williams
    August 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    oh, right.

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