01 March 2014

Giving Credit to the Editors

by John M. Floyd

I once heard a fellow writer say she had an "epic editor." Assuming she didn't mean "the editor of an epic," I like the term. I could probably use epic, as in "heroic" or "grand," to describe some of the magazine and anthology editors I've worked with in the past twenty years. (Well, heroic might be a stretch, but you get my drift. Worked with is also debatable; in many cases they were merely kind enough to publish what I wrote.)

Twenty years, though, is accurate. The first short story I ever submitted was accepted in January 1994, and appeared in Mystery Time magazine. Editor Linda Hutton is retired now, but she did me a huge favor: she taught me that selling short crime/suspense stories was at least possible. She enclosed a five-dollar bill in the envelope with the acceptance letter, and I remember staring at it as if I'd been handed the Hope Diamond. I went on to publish something in every issue of Mystery Time for the next eight years.

Editor indebtedness

Linda was the first of a number of editors I've come in contact with, and they've taught me a lot. Some of them I never knew well, but others became advisors and even friends. And I can honestly say most were professional and fair in their dealings with writers. Here are some editors, in no particular order, who were or have been extremely kind to me:

Margo Power, Murderous Intent
Andrew McAleer, Crimestalker Casebook
Linda Landrigan, AHMM
Marcia Preston, Byline Magazine
Babs Lakey, Futures
John Hart, Amazon Shorts
Andrew Gulli, The Strand Magazine
Darlene Poier, Pages of Stories
Tony Burton, Wolfmont Press anthologies
Ginger Johnson, Detective Mystery Stories
Janet Hutchings, EQMM
Sherri Armel, Red Herring Mystery Magazine
Johnene Granger, Woman's World
B. J. Bourg, Mouth Full of Bullets
Charity Bishop, Prairie Times
Philip Levin, Gulf Coast anthologies
Patrick Perry, The Saturday Evening Post
Donna Bowman, Short Stuff for Grown-ups
Sandra Ruttan, Spinetingler Magazine
Joseph DeMarco, Mysterical-E
Andrew Perkins, Grit
Jay Hartman, Untreed Reads
Richard Heagy, Orchard Press Mysteries
Cheri Jung, Over My Dead Body
Marvin Kaye, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine

At least half a dozen of those publications are no longer around, but I'm thinking Rob, Janice, Eve, Herschel, and others might remember them.

Letters from the editors

I was asked not long ago if I'd had any interesting experiences in dealing with magazine editors. I could think of only a few, because I try hard not to annoy editors, and when they tell me to do something I just salute and do it. Here are some unusual things that I do recall:

- A few months after I sold Andy McAleer a story for Crimestalker, he suggested that we collaborate on a mystery short. He wrote the first half and I wrote the second, and he immediately submitted it to AHMM under both our names. It was rejected even more immediately.

- Johnene Granger published two of my mysteries in Woman's World with someone else's byline. In fact, it was the same name both times: Elizabeth Hawn. In both instances Johnene phoned me afterward to apologize for the error, but since I'd been paid for the stories I didn't mind. I only hope Ms. Hawn, whoever she is, liked them.

- Loren Logsdon, then editor of Eureka Literary Magazine, wrote in an acceptance letter that the ending to the story I'd sent them was "the best she and her staff had seen in years." After publishing it, they rejected everything else I ever sent them.

- Linda Hutton of Mystery Time once asked me to change the expression "he cut his eyes at her" in one of my submissions to her magazine. She said she'd never heard that phrase before and figured readers hadn't either. I just cut my eyes at my wife, changed the sentence to "he gave her a sneaky look," and all was well.

- Andrew Gulli of The Strand once phoned me to ask where I'd gotten the name of the poison I'd used to kill the villain in a story I'd submitted to him (actually, the first story I ever sold to them). I told him I'd made it up. He paused for what I thought was a frighteningly long time, then said, "Okay."

- The late Cathleen Jordan, the editor of AHMM before Linda Landrigan, once published three of my stories in a period of four months (the March, May, and June 1999 issues). After celebrating--and telling myself that maybe I'd found the goose that laid the golden egg--I received at least a dozen AH rejections in a row.

- Last year I received a contract by mistake from Janet Hutchings at EQMM for something someone else had written. Unlike many of my SleuthSayers colleagues, I usually receive only rejections from EQ, so it was especially hard to make myself confess to her that I was not the lucky (and deserving) party.

For the writers among us, what are some of your experiences with editors, agents, publishers, etc.? Have you found most of them to be pleasant? Knowledgable? Accessible? Demanding? Who are/were some of your favorites?

Your wish is my command . . .

Anytime I get into a discussion like this, I'm reminded of the old saying, "Most editors are failed writers--but then again, so are most writers." I love that quote. I think it's also a reminder that editors and other head freds in the publishing world, revered though they might be, are just regular people like you and me. They have their own preferences, faults, and pet peeves.

And as long as they guard the gates that I'm trying to pass through, I will indeed salute, click my heels, and do what they tell me.


  1. John, here you have another list, and I do love your lists. My first editor at Berkley Prime Crime was wonderful. The first time I met her face to face was at MWA in New York. She invited me to lunch. I felt compelled to tell her, "I'm probably older than you think, but you'll know me by this description: white haired, short, and a little rounder than I'd like to be." Her reply was,
    "I'm younger and taller than you'll expect." Sure enough at 5'1" I was quite a bit shorter than the tall (almost six feet) young blonde Katie Day. She left Berkley for a job in sports at Columbia University, and I wish everyone could have had the experience of working with Katie!

  2. I share your admiration for the fine editors ( past and present) at AHMM and EQMM

  3. Fran, I suppose it's only logical that editor/writer relationships are often close ones--editors are the people who get to see our inner workings, even before readers do. (It's only just occurred to me that you're a short writer writing long fiction and I'm a long writer writing short fiction.)

    Janice, I'm a huge fan of both Linda and Janet--I've never met anyone who doesn't like and admire both of them--and I adored Cathleen Jordan.

  4. John, Janet Hutchings has been wonderful to me, and Linda Landrigan has been lovely every time I've met her over the years, though she never accepted one of my stories until just the other day. But for my all-time favorite editor, look in the mirror! I am forever grateful to you for making NO changes in "Death Will Trim Your Tree," my submission for The Gift of Murder, on the grounds that it didn't need any. Book editors and professional journal editors (vs short story editors) don't have a great track record with me--not all, but some. They've flattened my jokes, deconstructed my idioms, and moved my correctly placed commas to places they didn't belong.

  5. Thank you, Liz! Believe me, the reason I gave you a pass wasn't because I was lazy. That story was perfectly written--I still remember it well.

    That experience was fun but it served to remind me that I like writing far more than editing.

  6. Great anecdotes, John. I've worked with five of the fine editors on your list. Love 'em all, especially when they buy my stuff.

  7. John, yes I am familiar with most of them and have worked with several on the list. I would add Cherie Jung (omdb) as a delight to work with. Jay Hartman and KD Sullivan, (although KD is not officially an editor) are two of the most professional and caring. Back in the dark ages I agreed to be the editor (for one issue) of the Society of Children's Bookwriters journal. It was an eye opening experience. I learned fast that it wasn't my thing.

    Thanks for the memories.

  8. OOPs, sorry. I see Cherie is on your list. Time for new bifocals.

  9. Herschel, I'm probably the one who needs the bifocals--I've always spelled her name "Cheri," even in my correspondence with her. Bet I could've sold her more stories if I'd spelled it right.

    Yes, Jay is a good editor as well, and I know you've also sold stories to AH and WW and Sherlock Holmes and Orchard Press. I'll always mourn the passing of some of the old mystery mags like Red Herring and Mike Shayne and Murderous Intent, but there are still a good many places out there to send mysteries to, with great editors.

  10. Rob, I can think of several editors who have been very kind to both of us, over the years. I hope they stay in place.

  11. Carolyn Jenkins01 March, 2014 18:52

    Actually I showed I have guts by publishing my murder mystery on Amazon as an eBook. I am better at designing covers it seems than actually writing. It was a huge step for me, and with only 3 comments...2 good, 1 not so much, I was hooked. Now working on my second.

  12. Which means, Carolyn, that you were your OWN editor. Good for you!--I wish you great success.

  13. You're far more experienced than I, John, but I've met with, worked with, and been rejected by a few on your list. I appreciate their high standards that force me to do my best.

    I'd add the name John Helfers of Tekno Books, familiar to writers who appear in anthologies. He's an amazing gentleman and extremely easy to work with.

  14. Thanks for mentioning Tekno, Leigh. As for being rejected, I think just about every editor who's ever published a story of mine has also rejected several. The acceptances are just easier (and more fun) to remember.


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