I founded and led a writer’s group for several years. One of the questions that came up often was:
“Can I trust the editor of the magazine with my story or idea?”
Some members seemed to think they would not be paid if compensation was offered or their story would get used without credit. In my mind, there are only two options. First option – send something out. Second – worry and never send anything out. Perhaps there was a third option out of most people’s grasp – hire a lawyer and a notary public to verify everything you send (I’m kidding; I don’t recommend this option).
Some of these cautious folks may have spent too much time on websites like Predators and Editors. The point of that site and others like it is that there are predators who masquerade as the real thing. It’s important to know the difference. It’s also part of your research to study the magazine before submitting to it to decide if it is a good fit. Visit the Better Business Bureau website during your evaluation.
That being said, here are some reasons why you can trust the editor of the magazine with your article, story or query.
1. Reputation – Most editors value their position. An editor helps to keep the magazine filled with enough good articles to please the readers buying the magazine. This appreciative audience is then marketed to by the advertisers who purchase ad space. Both writers and advertisers are tight-knit groups. Word would get around pretty quickly about an unscrupulous person stealing ideas or cheating writers.
2. Relationship – If your idea is fantastic, then it’s feasible to think that you could come up with more than one good concept. If you can, this would make the editor’s job easier. They would prefer to develop a group of writers that they can rely on regularly. Rather than rip you off by not paying for one piece, they would rather pick your brain to see if you have some other thoughts. If you haven’t been paid (or credited) for the first article, that editor is not likely to receive another submission from you.
3. Resources – Most magazines receive many more queries and completed works than they can use for each issue. They are looking for the right articles for the magazine and the best people to write them. You should know this though – ideas cannot be copyrighted. On occasion, an idea on a complicated subject from an untested writer will interest an editor. The editor may not be sure if a new writer could complete the project. They’d rather assign it to a more experienced writer. This isn’t wrong or unethical; it’s business. Some magazines will even pay you a small fee when they do this, but it isn’t required. It’s also quite possible for someone else to think of a concept similar to yours completely independent of your submission. Only an actual arrangement of words as a whole can be copyrighted – not an idea or a title. Also, many themes repeat throughout the year. It’s part of your job in the query to convince the decision maker you are the one for the assignment.
4. Risk – Not crediting the writers for articles not only threatens the readership and the editor’s position as mentioned above, but also the viability of the magazine. Many factors can sink a magazine, but none faster than a bad name. Good writers will not want to write for the magazine, so the writing will suffer. As a result, readers won’t read the magazine and without readers no one will advertise in it.
I hope that by covering some of these points, I’ve helped you understand why it is safe to send your idea, article or story out. One last thought: many editors are also writers. They understand the query and submission process and they respect your work as much as you do. Study the magazine, craft a practical query or completed work and send it out. Your payment or byline may be closer than you think. Keep writing.
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