(in which I preach to the choir.)
The first caveat I bring to this is that it’s my own limited experience. I’m neither an expert nor vastly experienced. However, I can tell you what I’ve heard and what I think.
Firstly, I’ve dealt with two types of editors:
1) Editors who are publishing short ficiton, and
2) Editors who are working on novel publication (of my novel, I mean.)*
Short story editors are generally working on either a periodical publication or an anthology. As such, they usually have a good idea what they’re looking for…what will fit their publication and their ‘clientele’. It really helps if you send them work that fits their needs. Do your research. Read their magazine or their previous anthologies. Find out what that editor likes.
If you don’t do so, then don’t be surprised at a form rejection. It doesn’t matter how well-written and gripping your high school football memoir is–you shouldn’t be sending it to Asimov’s. That’s like turning in your Algebra homework to your English professor. It probably won’t even get looked at.
If you think your story matches the market’s needs, then your chance of rejection is still very high. Try not to take it personally. If they reject you, be civil. There’s no excuse for writing back to an editor to tell them…well, anything. They’ve made their decision. Be professional and move on.
And there are times when the editor likes it, but can’t–for one reason or another–buy it. I’ve gotten the ‘This is my favorite of anything you’ve sent me….but I can’t buy it’ rejection before. The editor in that situation had recently purchased something too similar.
Short story editors don’t seem to do a great deal of changing something once they’ve bought it. It happens though. I talk at length about my experiences with edit requests here.
Just be professional. Professional. I can’t stress that part enough. The editors out there talk with each other. They know each other…and they do warn each other about writers who are….difficult. (Just as writers tell each others about difficult editors!)
Be professional. Did I already say that?
Novel editors, in my limited experience, are doing something different. They’re investing a great deal of time in your book. Between my two novel editors so far, I suspect my book’s been read half a dozen times. Since they’ve already purchased the book, they’ve got a strong interest in making it successful.
See all the stuff above that I said about being professional? It’s the same. If you’re gonna be jerk with your editor, that’s going to take the shine off your relationship.
(Yes, I realize that there are times when editor/writer relationships implode….but that hasn’t happened to me yet, so I can’t give any advice about that.)
Anyhow, what have I left off? Any thoughts?
*Interestingly, I found the editing process for my novellas to be closer to the novel editing process than the short fiction process. Novellas just take more time to work through.